Let me explain…
In my fifth grade class I was the best at spelling. Hands down, no dispute I could spell circles around my peers. We would have a weekly class spelling bee and I won so many times that the teacher started asking me to read out the words rather than participate to make it fair to the other kids. Yes, I’m bragging but this is 100 percent true and hell, I am still pretty proud of it. I was that damn good.
It didn’t hurt that I had the motivation of a Big Foot pushing me towards success week after week.
My elementary school was pretty small but like most elementary schools there would be a yearly spelling bee for the younger kids (grades 2 and 3) and the (grades 4 and 5). And of course I entered every in grade five and was the class favorite to win because I was that damn good.
And I lost…
In my other class there was another kid (who we will name W) who was also amazing at spelling words. In this he and I were rivals. On the playground we got along alright but we were never friends. I suppose we ran in different circles, both literally and figuratively.
W and I could basically spell at a high school level, whatever that means. For an entire year, week after week, he would come in second to me until the teacher asked me to step down. Then he would come in first week after week.
What can I say? We were pretty damn good.
The school spelling bee was a pretty big deal to my class actually. We would practice almost daily as a class during the run up to the competition. I think half of us entered from a class of 30 something students.
I practiced with the rest of them but I felt confident about my chances of winning. And besides, I had to redeem myself from my loss the year prior when I made a stupid mistake on the “i before e except after c” rule.
We went into the spelling bee on a beautiful day in May. The school gymnasium/auditorium was packed. This was amazing actually as you have to imagine almost 200 children under ten packed into a small and hot gymnasium, sitting directly on the floor watching their peers spell in absolute silence. Our teachers must have been warlocks or something to hold such power over us but I digress…
The juniors went first. It took them about thirty minutes or so to finish their competition and then it was our turn.
I was nervous but excited. I had waited a year for redemption and for my turn for the bragging rights. This was going to be awesome, this was going to be almost as awesome as Star Wars Episode 3 (Remember, I was ten).
The spelling bee began easily and slowly got more difficult just like it always did. It took almost twenty rounds to get down to sixteen students and we still were not at the finalists portion of the competition when the words got HARD. My grandmother was in the audience watching since she was picking me up that day and she was beaming with pride. I spelled confidently and quickly and articulated my letters just like we had been practicing.
And then, in round twenty I got my final word for the day.
“R-E-C-I-E-V-E,” I said into the microphone.
“I’m sorry, that is incorrect,” said the teacher.
My heart sank, I went and sat down with the other students who had been eliminated. I cried later that day. W ended up winning and secured bragging rights for the next three years. I felt like punching him every time he opened his mouth from then on, usually to brag to my face … typical kid stuff.
To this day though I wish I had won. I know it’s immature and I should put the loss behind me but I cannot help myself. I really wish I had won. There is a sense of satisfaction that comes from redemption which I feel as though I had been denied that day.
Is there a lesson here? Or some sort of point to be made? Probably. I could talk about how ever since my spelling skills have gotten lax thanks to auto-correct and spell check. I could talk about how competitions at that age have positive and negative impacts on childhood development or I could pull up statistics and research on national spelling bees.
I could talk about movies I have seen such as Akeelah and the Bee or Bad Words except that I have seen neither of them. Instead I think that I will put in this clip from one of my favourite shows and call it a night:
I love that show.