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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Word of the Day, XVIII

Word of the Day: LOSS

I’ve never been very good at losing. Or doing things poorly. Or even doing things less well than anyone else.

This is why I do not know how to ride a bike. This is also why I don’t really cook. Or drive. Or play sports. Or games I cannot win.

When I was in 5th grade, there was a school-wide spelling bee. Maybe there was one every year—that I don’t remember, but I do remember lining up against the classroom walls and waiting until it was my turn to spell a word.

I don’t even remember winning within my class, although, I slightly remember that nobody there put up a very good fight.

And, suddenly, I was up in front of the whole school. Asking for the words to be used in a sentence, even though I had never used them in sentences myself, so how would that have helped?

Words like “navigable,” which I had never heard before but will never forget how to spell because the correct spelling spontaneously came to me on that stage.

“Navigable. N.A.V.I.G.A.B.L.E. Navigable.”

And, then, it was down to just two of us. Me and a 6th grade boy, Andrew Schwartz. His sister, Vanessa, was in my class. They were redheaded. And snobby. I think I hated Andrew even before this fateful day. He probably knew I was just as smart as he was and despised me for it.

We spelled word after word in rapid succession.

You could cut the tension in the auditorium with a knife.

“Nourishment,” one of the teachers boomed at me.

I started, “Nourishment. N.U.—“

I heard a gasp of relief behind me and a sigh from the crowd and realized something had gone terribly wrong.

My stressed, overeager (and probably overconfident) mind had switched the words “nourishment” and “nutrient” in my brain.

I’d lost.

In front of my whole school.

At 10 years old.

To a boy.

Andrew swept in front of me, spelled the word correctly, and the competition was over.

I remember stumbling off the stage into the arms of my favorite teacher, Ms. Tonick, and bursting into tears. She tsktsked me for being so upset and hard on myself.

The certificate I won for getting that far hung on my wall all through middle school, even though I secretly thought second place was just another term for first loser.

I still think that. Mostly.

My future kids better grow up to be winners. Or they’ll be totally screwed with me as a mother.


Rachiewrites said...

Annie, I'm thinking: Your future kids won't be screwed up with you as a mother. You know why? Because you aware, and awareness is worth its weight in gold. And I thought you were tremendous in that spelling bee, as in all things you touch. xxx

Annie said...

ha! thanks, mom... :-/