It’s story time!
This story comes to you from the dark recesses of my middle school years.
The thing you have to understand about my middle school years is that I actually kind of enjoyed them while it was happening. Now I look back and cringe because I was an awkward nerd who needed braces. But at the time, it was great. I have mostly good memories from those years.
I also have a few rather embarrassing or otherwise disturbing memories. Welcome to one of those.
It was a dark and stormy night.
Except it wasn’t stormy. Dark, yes, because it was night (duh). But not stormy.
Did I mention I’m a journalism major?
I’ve always been a good speller. Yes, in the pre-spell check days. Even today I can typically not rely on it and not miss it terribly.
Anyway. I’ve always been a good speller. I somehow instinctively understood that “F” and “Gh” made the same sound in certain words. “ghoti” would have made sense to me is what I’m saying.
I basically ruled the local homeschool spelling bee circuit. I typically did well at regionals (Except for Brett. Brett almost always won and I usually came in second. Then he graduated and now he’s married so who’s the real winner here?*)
I had one major flaw. Aside from “Mnemonic” that is (took me a good four years before I could spell it with 100% certainty).
My major flaw was this: I choked. I choked big time. I choked the minute anyone besides my mom, the spelling bee judge, and the 10 faces of the regional participants looked at me.
So it was an overwhelming surprise when I managed to qualify for the local competition of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Yes. THAT spelling bee. The bee to end all bees.** The bee that is televised every year that I watch with popcorn because deep down I’m still a nerd.
Little ol’ me with my glasses and crooked teeth and nerdiness qualified for local. In hindsight, this isn’t as big a surprise. There was a small oral test I had to pass to qualify, but the majority of the qualifying points came from a written test. I was the ULTIMATE at written tests. Still am. Sometimes.
But I digress.
So one dark and non-stormy night my parents and I packed up and went to the bee. My siblings might have been there too but honestly this is increasing the number of therapy hours I’m going to need one day so I don’t want to think any harder about it.
We were all up on a stage. A. Stage. You have to understand that I really was not a spotlight kind of person. I could do dance performances and that was about all I was a-ok with. So a stage, with lights so bright I could barely see the audience, and a microphone all by its lonesome up front…I was in terror when I first walked in.
But I was fairly confident. I had this. I totally had this. I maybe wouldn’t win but I was a darned good speller and darn it I would make the homeschool community proud because what else can you do at 11?
I was only a few kids into the line-up. I was happy. Not first, so no “paving the way.” I was not a “paving the way” kind of person back then. Not last so no agonizing wait to begin. I was feeling chipper by this point.
Pablo and Joseph and whomever got up and did their thing. Easy words. Words I knew. Words I can probably still spell without spellcheck I’ll have you know (If I knew what those words were).
But one word sticks out in my brain. To this day, aside form “mnemonic,” it is the ONLY word from those years of spelling bees that I vividly remember standing up and saying into a microphone.
Except I didn’t spell it like that. Oh no. I took a deep breath, and rattled off:
I was stunned. I immediately replayed what I had just said. And my entire being crumbled.
That was definitely not how you spelled that word.
And now I was the first speller out.
What dishonor I brought on my family, my friends, the homeschool community, and I probably lumped Lutherans into the mix for good measure.
I definitely cried in the bathroom through most of the round. I definitely spelled every word in my head the rest of the bee. I definitely was very, very bitter.
I’m still bitter. Just less so. Because time heals all wounds blah blah blah.
Really it’s just because spell check was invented and I now rest secure that whatever I don’t know how to spell, the computer probably does.
Computers are great, Macs are better. *steps off soapbox*
At any rate, The Great Spelling Bee Disaster still remains the single worst moment in middle school. I’m sure my parents can think of worse that I’ve mercifully forgotten.
Now go forth and spell gallery properly.
*I don’t actually know who’s the real winner. Obviously I’d like to assume it’s me but you can draw your own conclusions.
**I wrote that and immediately cracked up because all I could think about was a giant killer bee destroying all the other bees.