The Just-In-Case Backpack
Lilly puts so many things in her 'Just-in-case' backpack. But what will she do when she loses it?
“It isn’t a competition to see how much stuff you can squeeze into your backpack.” Mom shook her head.
“But it’s ALL important stuff…” Lilly loved her backpack.
It was small and blue, and so many many things fitted into it. Lilly’s backpack had lots of zips and pockets, too. That made it even more special to tuck things away.
And that was Lilly’s big problem. “You just never know what you are going to need when you are in the garden or the park.”
“What things?” Lilly’s Mom seemed to be having a head-shaking day.
“Just Things that might be useful.” Lilly grinned at Cyril Squirrel hanging on the back of the backpack.
Lilly started counting on her fingers. “Skipping ropes and juggling balls. A big blow up beach ball just in case.”
“Just in case of what?”
Lilly’s Mom knew she shouldn’t ask, but she did.
“In case somebody says, has anybody got a beach ball? Then, crayons, pencils and paper if you need to draw. A few games and dice. A puzzle or two, just in case.”
Lilly’s Mom didn’t ask, and Lilly carried on listing her Things!
“Bubbles, you might need to blow a few soapy bubbles to cheer you up. Ice -Cream, but that’s silly, I meant to say, money for ice-cream in one of the little pockets. Candies, cookies and a few jelly beans, too, that’s what pockets are for.”
Lilly carried on. “In winter, I have extra gloves and scarves and in summer I have a sunhat, clean socks and a towel.”
“I can’t believe it; you don’t need all that stuff.” Mom was almost giving up.
“I’ve got a few story-books, too, and a bit of music, just in case. A small tambourine and whistle. And just in case, I’ve got a few plasters and my address is inside, just in case I lose it.”
Mom didn’t ask anymore.
But later at the playground the ‘just in case’ really happened. Well, quite a few ‘just in cases’-
Lilly had taken out her juggling balls and skipping rope and was having fun in the sand with the others.
“I bet you haven’t got a decent ball,” one of the boys called out.
“If you help me to blow it up, I’ve got a huge giant beach ball in my backpack.” Lilly laughed, and her Mom shook her head.
“Brilliant” The children all shouted and beach ball catch was the new game.
Then one of the little ones fell off a swing. Lilly was there as quick as a flash with a handful of plasters.
“Just in Case.” She smiled and handed the little boy a few jelly beans, and blew a few soapy bubbles to cheer him up.
When they all got tired and sat in the shade, Lilly pulled out the crayons and paper and they played ‘Boy, Girl, Animal, Fruit’, an alphabet word-game. Lilly scribbled down Billy, Beyoncé, Bear and Banana and was the fastest for B. The children had just started with F – when the ice-cream man arrived.
But she didn’t need the ‘Just-in-case’ ice- cream money. Mom waved and gave her some.
After the ice-cream, Lilly wanted to put away the crayons. But she opened her mouth in surprise and cried out. “It’s gone; my backpack is gone!”
Everybody helped look for Lilly’s backpack – the other mothers, all of the children, everybody. They looked everywhere – in the bushes, in the sand, under the swings, even up in the trees.
“We’ll get a new one.” Mom tried to help.
“But Cyril Squirrel is gone, too, as well as all my other ‘Just-in-case’ treasures.”
Lilly started to cry and nobody knew what to say. Lilly’s special backpack was gone, and most important Lilly’s toy squirrel- that was the very worst.
At bedtime, Mom told Lilly, “But you put your name and address inside, didn’t you? Just in case.”
Lilly nodded. “Yes, just in case I lost it.”
“Let’s hope that somebody reads your address and, just maybe, brings it back.” Mom gave her a big hug.
Did Lilly get her backpack back?
Yes, she did.
A few days later Cyril Squirrel and the backpack were sitting at the front door. Lilly couldn’t believe her luck and whooped all over the kitchen, hugging Cyril and kissing her backpack.
But things were missing – lots of things – the candies, the cookies, the jelly beans, an orange, the fizzy drinks, the games and books – oh yes, and the ice cream pennies, too.
So, who took Lilly’s backpack and sweets? – Cyril Squirrel knows, but he’s not telling, he’s a secretive squirrel.
Now Lilly doesn’t put quite so many things in her backpack, just in case she loses it, again. She keeps it nearby in the playground, and keeps a squinty eye on it, just in case –
Lilly is more careful, and only puts half the things in her backpack, even though she always finds it very hard to choose.
“Nobody ever wants me to play the tambourine, or blow my whistle anyway, I wonder why?”
© Andrea Kaczmarek 2020
Thinking Ahead, Independent Thinking
1. Lilly loves putting things she might need into her backpack. Do you think it’s good that she does this? Why or why not?
2. What are some other useful things Lilly might put into her ‘Just-in-Case’ backpack?
Illustration by Andrea Kaczmarek