When I was in the first grade, I was the only kid in my class who spelled “horse” correctly on a spelling test. Everyone else spelled it like “house” so it came out like this: “hourse.” As a result of this early (and brief) spelling brilliance, I was selected to represent my class in the school-wide spelling bee.
On the day of the spelling bee, I stood on stage in the auditorium/gym/cafeteria in front of the entire school, including students, teachers, administrators, janitors, the Mayor (well, maybe not the mayor), and the local media (well, maybe not them either). In any case, there were a lot of people from my six-year-old vantage point. I don’t remember if I was nervous, but if I were asked to participate in a spelling bee today I’d be petrified, so I’m guessing I had a few butterflies in my stomach.
When it was my turn, I stepped up to the microphone and the judges gave me my first word: “I.” Yes, that’s right. My word was “I.” My word had one letter. I don’t recall how they used “I” in a sentence, but it was probably something like this: “I like ice cream.” Or, “I can spell.”
I took a deep breath and said, “I,” and then – are you sitting down? – I was eliminated from the spelling bee. Why, you ask? Because I didn’t say “Capital I.” I quickly left the stage, sat down on the auditorium/gym/cafeteria floor surrounded by my “hourse” spelling classmates, and felt like a hourse’s ass for getting eliminated from a spelling bee for misspelling “I.” It’s quite possible that this singular mortifying moment in my childhood caused the future emergence of Nervous, Anxious, Crazy Mama.
Flash forward to today. Dylan is teetering on the edge of reading! He recognizes words! He reads signs! He puts easy words together in sentences! Every time he reads a word, his eyes twinkle with pride! I can see his confidence building right before me! It’s amazing!
But, he’s making me spell everything.
Cat. Hat. Mat. Bat. Yogurt. Hannah (a girl in his class…makes me want to say “Hannah Banana” every time!). Lynn (my middle name). Nathan (Riley’s middle name). Purple. Airplane. Television. Okay. 3D. Ice cream. M&M’s (not an easy word to spell!). Nalyd (Dylan backwards). Yelir (Riley backwards). For the love of God, he’s making me spell backwards! Anakin. Obi-Wan. Hondo. Bumblebee. Optimus Prime. My friends, the spelling doesn’t stop. It’s not that any of these words are difficult to spell (except Optimus, which took me a few extra seconds), but I feel a little bit like a hourse’s ass every time I do it.
On Monday, we reached a high point (or a low point depending on your viewpoint). “How do you spell pain?” “P-a-i-n.” Then, “How do you spell ass?” Pain in the ass. My son wanted me to spell pain in the ass. I didn’t want to do it, I really didn’t. But, in the end, I did, because according to dictionary.com, an ass (noun) is: a long-eared, slow, patient, sure-footed domesticated mammal related to the horse, used chiefly as a beast of burden. And if Dylan is ever called to service as a representative of his class in a school spelling bee, I want him to be better prepared than I was when I had the great misfortune of having my hourse’s a-s-s kicked out of the spelling bee for not saying “Capital (b-l-e-e-p-i-n-g) I.” Sigh…deep breath…sip of w-i-n-e.
Editor’s note: After spelling this inappropriate idiom for Dylan, I told him not to say it again. Except in a spelling b-e-e.