Everything was going fine, and then I got cocky. I breezed through all the words they threw at me, and by the way, did I mention I was a fourth grader at the fifth grade spelling bee? Seems like the town newspaper left out that important detail. Hmph! I am in the big league now!!!
I cranked out all these hard words: Ridiculous, neighbor, phrase. Then came my death-knell: Scissors. I know how to spell it, really I do. But you would never have known it by the way I reeled out the letters at lightning speed:
The look of horror on my mother's face in the audience instantly told me I had blown it, but I had no idea how. What did I say?!?!?! Her mouth agape, her eyebrows fixed in a frown of dismay ... that look is forever burned in my brain. I felt a flush begin at my heart and rush upwards to color my face and force its way out of my eyes as I listened to the second-place winner next to me recite the proper spelling. She fell shortly thereafter, but there was no joy in her fall for me, the loser who substitutes R's for S's.
Later, during our press photo, I tried to smile but the corners of my mouth did that funny little dance that they do when you have been smiling too long, as I fought to keep my tears and my choking sobs inside. On the drive home I listened to the consolations and teachings of my parents, and carried the lesson about "taking my time" into my bedroom, where I flopped onto the bed and cried, with visions of double S in my mind.
In later years, I would brag to others that I had "won" the town spelling bee. Nobody seemed to remember the truth, and I felt that my fall was really just a technicality, after all. I knew how to spell both of the words that came after "scissors," so if I hadn't rushed through that one I probably would have won. This was my mantra through middle school and even into high school. But I never ate a McDonalds hamburger again without visualizing that word and tasting the salt of my own tears.
Click IMBWT and the "nostalgia" tag below more childhood fun!