Early Wednesday morning I loaded Buffy the Wonder Dog into my old Ford pickup and headed north. Destination: San Juan High School, Blanding, Utah. When the task is great, Buffy is the Simpson family and Twin Rocks Trading Post talisman, and this particular day was sure to be a challenge.
Grange, like Kira, his older sister, has fallen under the tutelage of Jana the Spellmeister. When it comes to spelling, Jana does not fool around. Consequently, under her guidance Grange was this year’s champion at the Albert R. Lyman Middle School Spelling Bee. He therefore received a ticket for advancement to the next phase, and the time had arrived. In spite of his early success, I reckoned Grange could use Buffy’s support, so into the truck she went.
Spelling bees have always been a source of anxiety for me, even when I am not a participant. Maybe this results from a lack of focus in school, maybe it indicates a shortage of innate intelligence or maybe it is just fate. Whatever the reason, spelling and grammar confound me. So it was with great trepidation I attended Kira’s years of competitive spelling. Each time I sat next to Jana at one of the many events Kira entered and mentally tried to suss out the words, I all too quickly realized that, had I been a contestant, I would have been quickly dismissed for failing to articulate the correct answer. Kira, on the other hand, has a natural talent for language. From an early age she intuitively understood how letters fit together to form even the most difficult words.
When I look back at my own scholastic career, I often wonder how my instructors were able to decipher my hieroglyphics. Maybe they were accustomed to young people not knowing how to spell, or maybe they realized I would wind up miserable and alone if they did not award me a passing grade. Whatever the reason, I was universally promoted. This, of course, was the dark days before the rise of Steve Jobs, widespread personal computer use and spell check, so I did not have technology to identify and correct my scholastic missteps.
Unlike Kira, Grange has had to work hard at developing his language proficiency. So, last year when the Master of Spelling was too busy to focus her lexicon laser beam on the next protégé, Grange faltered in the early rounds. I, of course, worried he might succumb to the destiny that had befallen his sire and forever wander in a wilderness of words. Jana, however, never lost faith in her ability to train Grange or in his capacity to master their joint undertaking.
In spite of his paternal predisposition, with Buffy’s support and me sitting quietly by hoping nobody would ask me to arbitrate an alphabetic misfire, Grange was able to conquer all challengers and move on to the regional competition as district champion. Overcome with excitement, and momentarily forgetting my linguistic handicap, I leaned over to Jana the Queen of Spelling and said, “That was S.T.U.P.E.N.D.U.S.” She just smiled and said, “I’m sorry, you are dismissed.”
With warm regards,
Steve, Barry, Priscilla and Danny; the team.