Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Spelling Bee

So I got several comments on spelling "definitely" wrong and it brought to mind my oldest son competing in the local Spelling Bee when he was in elementary school.

When Older Son (OS) was in elementary school, he surprisingly won the right to compete in the City Wide Spelling Bee. I say surprisingly because he wasn't all that great a speller in elementary school. We spent many Thursday nights studying those dreaded spelling lists for weekly Friday spelling tests.

Well, anyway, his dad and I were really proud of him being selected. We worked for several evenings going over the long list of spelling words that would be in the contest. There were way too many words on that list and none of us were really willing to dedicate long hours for study time. We talked briefly about those "trouble" words that have 2 meanings and are spelled differently.
Now days when I hear about those national spelling bee contestants, I always shutter to think about the amount of time invested preparing for those major competitions.

The big day arrived and we were all surprised how many people showed up for the City Wide Competition. OS was quite nervous but calmly took his place on the stage. They started the competition and all the participants were doing fairly well.

There was a list of spelling words in the program, and all the audience followed along with each word. You could almost tell who were the parents of each kid that got up to the podium because those parents would smile, offer encouraging expressions, or even hold their breaths. When their offspring completed the word correctly, a relieved breath was expired along with applause.

It was devastating to that first boy that missed his first word...he left the stage in tears and his parents immediately went to comfort him. (I later found out that this was our family physician's son and we have talked about how traumatic that was for his son to be the first one knocked out.)

It soon became apparent which kid was up next, and what word they would be asked to spell. As the worrying mom and study partner, I knew some of the words OS had trouble spelling. I kept thinking, guiltily, that maybe we should have studied more. I also saw how serious some of the participants were taking this little spelling bee (think national spelling bee contestants...and all those dumb questions they Definition? Does it have a different pronunciation?... etc.)

Just about that time, some mom sitting next to me says, " Boy, I'm glad my son doesn't have to spell "stationery (ary)" because he always forgets which one means the envelope and which one means immobile.
I stated in a confident voice, we reviewed those "trouble" words and my son knew that particular one...we had specifically addressed that one.
She then repeated that she had tried to remind her son that the "E" in stationery stood for envelope but he couldn't seem to remember that clue.
I looked at her in shock and said, "Oh, my gosh...I told my son the wrong definition for Stationery vs. Stationary!" (Remember when you read about me having trouble with certain word spellings....this happened to be one of my "trouble" words also.... for some reason I "thought" I had the right definition with the right spelling.)

I thought to myself... what is the chance that OS will get that word? Probably, little chance and I relaxed for a brief moment.
Then the "worried mother syndrome" kicked in... I frantically counted the number of words till "stationery" came up and just as frantically counted when OS would be up to the podium.

Words just don't cover that sinking feeling when the universe aligns just right and the most improbable event becomes reality. Sure enough, OS was going to get "stationery" for his word!!!

I sat in the stands just waiting for this big calamity, knowing there was little I could do to correct the problem....Also knowing that OS WAS going to spell it WRONG! I had coached him and knew there was no doubt. Some small part of our brain really likes to hope for the impossible even in situations we know the outcome.

OS proudly takes the podium, gets the word "stationery"...asks for the definition... and spells it WRONG!
He looks at the judge with shock in his eyes but calmly walks off the stage.....

He was totally ticked at his mom for messing him up....

Even to this day, I can recall that horrible sinking feeling....But,

I know how to spell stationery now .............


Michal said...

I was pretty young when that happened and I still remember the aftermath. To say that Tom was ticked off doesn't do it justice. To this day I've rarely seen a person that angry.

Mamaw said...

Poor OS but just look how he turned out so in the course of life some of those little screw-ups make us stronger, and it didn't hurt to have Mom to blame for that. Being the perfectionist that I know you are, probably hurt you worse than it did him!!

Justin said...

you think Tom was ticked off then? Just think what he'll do when he finds out his mom has replaced him with this OS kid! Is he that guy who always slept on the pullout bed downstairs? I bet OS roughhoused AND threw the basketball against the house. Jerk.

Justin said...

I was in the final round of a spelling bee in 6th grade one of the first to go, knowing that they were starting in alphabetical order (and with the help of a definition), I still spelled "accept" e-x-c-e-p-t. And I was prety good spelerr two.

Jersey Girl said...

Tina, will you hate me for this? I won the state spelling been (NJ) in the 3rd grade. Precursor to out of homework for a week by spelling "antidisestablishmentarianism" in the 1st grade, it just came naturally. But, hey, my parents weren't there at the spelling bee (Dad worked 3 jobs and had the only car, Mom was at home with the other 6 kids, so I guess, you had to be good to get any attention).

Jersey Girl said...

Go figure...did Ispell "spelling BEE" wrong?

neva said...

WOW! The guilt you could carry around for that little episode. Good thing we know how to let that stuff go!!

Tom said...

Despite the coaching she says happened, I wasn't aware there was more than one way to spell stationary/ery, and I don't remember asking for the definition...if I did, it was just because I saw the other kids doing it and figured it was how you acted at spelling bees. Let's just say that I'll never spell it wrong again though...that little memory has stuck with me for a long long time. And I was definitely pissed. Tricked! I was tricked!

The real question many of you just hit after this blog to see what the difference between stationary and stationery is...??? hmmm? eh?? anyone? Which one is the state of being, and which one is the fancy paper??

Tom said...

At least I didn't end up with a spelling be moment like this:

Though this kid was clutch under pressure...certainly not stationary though, eh? aaaakakakakahahaha!

Jeff said...

just as long as no one says "tomarrow" i can handle mis-spellings. tomarrow is so revolting.