Wednesday, January 20, 2010
In fifth grade, I was crowned the winner of the class spelling bee. This meant I was to represent my class in the school wide spelling bee. To say that my win was a complete flook or is it fluke or maybe even phluke – — was an understatement. (Have you figured out how this ends?)
My folks were so proud and I endured weeks of my Dad calling out the words on the way to school each morning. I misspelled practically every one he called out. It was a nightmare – for both of us.
On the eve of the bee, I still remember my Dad pulling out the photo of cousin Grace.
“There is no reason you can’t be just like Grace.”
Cousin Grace, you see, was first runner up in the National Spelling Bee. Grace is now in her mid-forties but each Christmas when I visit her parents, they make sure to point out the picture on the mantle of Grace standing next to President Jimmy Carter after her second place finish.
“Do you remember Angel, when our Grace met the President after she came in second in the National Spelling Bee?“
Here might be the right place to tell you that everything Grace has accomplished since that win at age 12 – has paled in comparison. The fact that she is vice-president of a large company now – – has not resulted in a new photo on the mantle.
Sadly, my parents don’t have any photos of me and the President on their mantle or anywhere else in their home. I was the second kid out of the school wide spelling bee – having misspelled the word grapefruit. Spelled it g-r-a-p-e-f-r-i-u-t. Oh, the horror!
The memory of leaving the stage to find my seat in the audience is still seared in my memory as my very first failure in life. Of course, it is often said that you learn more from your failures than from your successes. What I learned that day was, “I was robbed! It should have been me! The fix was in!”
So when my middle child came home announcing she would be representing her class in the school wide spelling bee – I was mortified.
I chose not to participate with her father in calling out the words to her. (It still hurts too much.) But her father told me she was ready and, in fact, a pretty good speller.
On the eve of her spelling bee, she came downstairs to tell us she didn’t want to do it.
It was all I could do not to scream out, “run, run, little girl run!” But instead, I sat her down and told her about our family ties to President Carter.
The next morning, she participated in her school spelling bee and did a great job.
Turns out she is no cousin Grace but, on the other hand, she doesn’t appear to be as traumatized as I was. Or is it tromotized? Traumitizsed?