Friday, May 29, 2009
Queen Spelling Bee
I watched the national spelling bee this week, and found myself rather intrigued (watch the clip above - I laugh EVERY time I see it!!! Every time.). I LOVE words!!! I love to say words - the dance between tongue and teeth and roof of mouth. I love to write words, to play with words, to consider words. I love that words, seemingly so innocent, have the power to make one weep or laugh. Words, words, words. Can anything be more wonderful than words?
I first fell in love with words with Dick, Jane, and Sally. At four, I felt such power in picking up a book and reading it, READING it!!! My love affair with written words began then. I read everything I could get my hands on. As I got older, I loved anything by Beverly Cleary, all of the Anne of Green Gables books, The Secret Garden, all of the Black Stallion books, all of the Misty of Chincoteague books, Little Women, Black Beauty, Beautiful Joe, Call of the Wild, The Outsiders - the list is endless. Where the Red Fern Grows was the first book that ever brought me to tears. Crying over Little Ann and Old Dan felt so heartbreakingly delicious that I would reread the passage where they died over and over, savoring my tears as they ran unstopped down my face. Yes, I loved words.
My love of spoken words began with my mother. Before bedtime each night, she sat in a rocking chair, upholstered in tea-stained fabric littered with patriotic notions like liberty bells and flags, and read to us. She read us all of the Little House on the Prairie books, E.B. White's The Trumpet of the Swan, and from the Bible - Genesis, Exodus, Proverbs. Nothing was more soothing than the rise and fall of my mother's voice. Even listening to the tribal role calls from the New Testament sounded fascinating falling from her mouth.
All of this love of words led to an unexpected skill - spelling! I certainly never picked up a book for the purpose of improving my spelling - no, it was purely selfish escapism. Still, I found that I was, in fact, a very good speller. In fourth grade, our class would have spelling bees every Friday. I was a terrible athlete, always the last (or nearly last) one picked to be on a team, but in the spelling arena, I was the Queen Bee, the Queen Spelling Bee - always (ALWAYS) the first one chosen - A-L-W-A-Y-S.
I represented our school at the regional spelling bee for the three years that I was eligible - 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. I so badly wanted to advance to the state level. It never happened, but I distinctly remember my last regional bee in eighth grade. I was one of three students left competing in the oral bee - only two advance to state. I was the first of the three to stand and spell. My word was "spontaneity". I spelled it "spontenaity". I was out. The next word was "tortilla". I knew how to spell that, but the other speller - a skinny boy, spelled it "tortea". That earned him second place. That really irked me. We both misspelled our words, but I KNEW his word (of course, he probably knew how to spell spontaneity, but still ... ). By virtue of misspelling first - I was out, but he won a trip to the state level. Funny how I remember this all so clearly.
By the way, the winner of this year's national spelling bee, 13-year-old Kavya Shivashankar from Kansas won with the word "Laodicean". I bet she'll still remember that clearly when she's 35, too!