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the bee-attitude

May 31, 2013

i still remember donning my favorite daisy yellow and sky blue striped t-shirt dress and driving to the competition with my mom and sister.  they took me away from my family and sequestered me with the other competitors in an unfamiliar library.  we nervously made shallow conversation.  i was only a middle schooler, after all, what did i really have to talk about?  they made me cover my lucky dress with a placard of cardboard, a number emblazoned on the front.  and then they lined us up and marched us into the glaring lights of the small town wisconsin theater.  we took our plastic seats one by one as our parents beamed, brighter than the stage lights, at their children.  we were the few, the chosen, the elite.  the spelling bee champions.

i didn’t just hate spelling bee day.  i feared it.  like superman who avoids kryptonite for fear of showing weakness, i did everything in my power to avoid spelling bees for fear of showing power.  i was an insatiable reader growing up.  and i happened to be pretty good with words.  but winning spelling bees wasn’t exactly the coolest thing in the world.  so i cowered.

in sixth grade i refused to participate.  my parents acquiesced and let me bow out of the school-wide spelling bee.  my friend laura won that year and advanced to the district bee.  i made her a pair of lucky earrings.  {thank you, laura, for winning so i didn’t have to.  here, have some earrings?}  so i’m not sure how i ended up on that stage two years later.  but i think part of it has to do with the fact that i spelled the word hydrangea correctly after my 8th grade classmate matt stumbled over it.  he cried and ran for the bubbler.  and all of a sudden i was a homeroom hero.

i carried that pilgrim park middle school pride with me all the way to the district spelling bee, where i took 3rd place.  i won a dictionary and a trip to the regional bee.  after the competition, i was like an olympic athlete in training.  i remember asking the school district for a spelling bee study guide.  i practiced my spelling with my mom morning, noon and night.  but spelling is a funny thing.  there’s really no way to prepare for any of the six million words that a judge will zing your way as you stand, panicking, on the edge of a school stage in your favorite platform sneakers.

and that’s how my run ended.  fungicide.  a word i still can’t remember how to spell to this day.  my kryptonite.  but at least i was wearing my favorite dress.

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