"Spell the word, Bamboozle."
A big smile spread across my face as adrenaline pumped through my veins. Bamboozle was highlighted in my little book covered with yellow and black bees. I knew the word! My long hours of practice were about to pay off.
"Bamboozle. B-A-M-B-O-Z--- NO! I mean..."
Too late. The rules of the spelling bee sent me back to my chair. Crying. No, bawling- hysterically.
My little face rested in the crook of my elbow as giant sobs dripped pools of tears into my glasses. Even worse, snot flooded the top of my desk.
I told myself that it didn't matter what my classmates thought. I was going to die right there in that spot. They'd remember me as the girl who lost the spelling bee and cried herself to death.
I berated myself to a pulp. After all, I did know the word. I was just too excited and spit it out all wrong.
Life lessons kind of happen like that. You just know... And then, like a bug smacking into the windshield, life gets messy.
Mrs. Kelly let me cry. I needed to mourn, to grieve, to let it all out.
I'll never forget her. Her salt and pepper hair. Her permanent limp. Her classroom right next to the library. Her kindness.
Mrs. Kelly encouraged me to write. She encouraged me to write how I felt. "Just put it all in words," she had said. And so I did. And so I continue.
Years after this event, I worked as a waitress at Shoney's.
I greeted the aging couple in my section and quickly recognized her sweet face. "Mrs. Kelly!"
I cherish the grateful moment.
My age has doubled since thanking her for the impact she breathed into my life. I don't know if she really remembered me that day in the restaurant but I'll never forget her.
If I knew where she was, this is what I would write to her:
Dear Mrs. Kelly,
Thank you for your kindness to this snot-nose fifth-grader. Thank you for taking the time to encourage me, to speak words of blessing into my life. Thank you for helping me to realize that it is okay to cry and that losing the spelling bee was not the end of my world. Thank you for encouraging me to write.
Thank you for caring. You will always have a place in my heart.
Smile :) donnamusing
P.S. Bamboozle. B-A-M-B-O-O-Z-L-E. Bamboozle.