Friday, May 29, 2009

the other spelling bee

While last night was the Scripps Bee -- the national one, from Washington --it was also the school district bee. Louisa had won her school's bee, so she was competing. It was exciting and she was nervous. So was her mama. She's only in the fourth grade and was one of the youngest spellers (and she was the first fourth grader to win at her school). This was a big deal.

She made it through the first round with the word "ventilate." I could breathe for a bit -- and I'm sure she could, too. Then in the second round she got "affinity." I could tell right away she was unsure how to spell it. She asked for the origin and took a breath and left out one of the "f"s. I have to say, it is very hard to keep a calm, uninterested face when you know after the third letter that your child has just messed up. She was obviously upset when the judges held up their red cards to indicate that she wasn't successful in her attempt. She walked off stage and apparently they gave her a cookie and our school principal was right there to comfort her a bit and let her decompress before sending her back out to the audience. Lou said, "Mrs. Hudson was saying something to me, Mama. And I tried to look at her attentively, but I couldn't understand anything she said because I was so sad."

She sat on my lap through the third round and whispered how to spell each word. Correctly -- the child knew all the words following her miss. As I told her a little later, there's an element of luck in a spelling bee. Sometimes you just get a word you don't know or can't figure out. Them's the breaks. But we had frozen yogurt and she perked up a little.

Bless her heart, she wrote "affinity" on the back of her nametag. Right before bed, she got gloomy again and started to project how the other kids at school would tease her for losing. I told her she might be surprised and that I was sure her friends would be very sympathetic. She said, "Yeah, my friends and I have an affinity for each other."

And you and I have an affinity for each other, too, baby. We're all so proud of you. You'll do even better next year.

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