I think the first time I threw a Spelling Bee, I was in the third grade.
The winner of the class Bee would compete at the grade level, the winner of that would get up on stage in front of the whole school to compete.
I was one of the final few in my class. I knew I'd never spell a word wrong. I never did on any spelling test. Once I saw a word written, my spongy little brain absorbed it and held onto those letters for good.
There was no way I was getting up in front of the whole school. I wasn't afraid of losing, I was afraid of winning and having to go on to an even bigger stage. I wasn't that kind of kid. The spotlight was not something I was comfortable in.
So I flubbed a word on purpose.
Fourth and fifth grade, down to the final three and again I'd toss out a misspelling and get the hell out of there.
My sixth grade teacher saw right through me. I picked a stupid word to screw up; RIFLE. He raised an eyebrow at me as I spelled; "Rifle, R-I-F-E-L, Rifle".
He dragged my ass out into the hall and wanted to know what I was up to. He was a cool guy, he got me, and got my reason for bailing on the Bee.
There were no Spelling Bees in junior high or high school, thank goodness. But during those years I came to realize this ability I had that made spelling so easy for me.
I'd always tested very well, despite not being particularly smart, and only crash studying for tests the night before. I'd write out an outline of the material, with headings and subheadings and numbers and letters and bullet points. I only had to write it out and read it once. The structure of the outline was important, because during the test, I could look at it.
In my head.
Yep. Little bit of photographic memory action going on. Maybe a lot. It really looked like a page in my head that I could read. It felt like cheating.
This little parlor trick served me well throughout high school making acing tests a breeze and producing impressive report cards. Though I tested well, I retained not a whole lot.
College years found me ingesting vast quantities of brain cell erasers thus greatly diminishing my super powers. Tests required more effort, but I could still spell any of my friends under the table. I was usually consulted before a dictionary was opened.
And I still like words. I love seeing an unfamiliar medical term and trying to figure out its meaning. I try to figure out its origins. Pick it apart piece by piece. If I hear a new word, I'll always try to spell it on my own before looking it up.
But I'll ALWAYS confirm spelling before writing the word down anywhere. I shudder at the thought of putting a misspelling in a chart.
Also? If I ever go back to an old blog post and see a misspelled word that somehow slipped past spellcheck, I die a little inside. Even if I know it was only a typo, I am mortally embarassed by it.
So how happy was I Friday night, after settling down with the remote and a glass of wine, to find the Scripps National Spelling Bee on TV? Wicked happy.
On the edge of my seat I was, my fingers flying on the keyboard after hearing the word.
And I'd adjust my spelling accordingly.
"Language of origin."
More adjustments if necessary.
"Can you use it in a sentence please?"
And me, jumping up and down, pointing at the computer screen when I got a word right.
I only got a few right. But coming close even made me giddy.
And when that girl won?
Clapping and cheering. That was me.
She totally would have kicked my ass.
I love the fact that I found the best video of the Bee on ESPN. I couldn't embed it, so here's the link .
In case you actually clicked over; aren't these the coolest kids ever? My favorite is the girl who when given the definition to her word replied; "That's boring." What a hot shit.
And here, the proud winner.
I wonder if she's read Bee Season yet. It is one of my favorites. And now I'm off to dig it out of a box, as I find myself wanting to read it again.