The Spelling Bee

scheicher / stock.xchng
scheicher / stock.xchng

One of the 25 questions from the Haphazard Hop sparked a childhood memory…


It was second grade, Mrs. Palmeri’s classroom and it was time for us to compete in a spelling bee. The rules were simple, the entire class lined up at the front of the classroom. When it was our turn we got our word and spelled it. If we got it wrong we sat down. If we spelled our word correctly, we went to the back of the line to spell another round.


I would like to blame my tender age for my problem that day, but I cannot. It was pure curiosity and stubbornness. I also blame the chalkboard tray and my mother.


Not long before that particular day my mom had mentioned that Tums were basically a chalk for indigestion. (Can you see where this is going?)


With my innocence, when I heard my mom refer to Tums as chalk, I immediately associated the fruity-flavored antacid tablets with the chalk Mrs. Palmeri used every day to try to pound knowledge into my brain.


While my normal activity around the classroom did not bring me into close contact with the chalkboard, the spelling bee – that was a different story.


I clearly remember going several rounds of the spelling bee trying to decide if I had the gumption to take a bite of the chalk sitting innocently in the chalkboard tray. I was certain the white chalk stick would taste like peppermint – or perhaps spearmint.


Should I try to nibble on the chalk inside the nifty metal container? Or eat and entire small chunk of loose chalk along the board? Would I get in trouble? What if Mrs. Palmeri liked to eat her chalk, too, and she noticed I’d snagged her snack?


There were about four students left in front of the chalkboard in the spelling bee when I realized it was do or die time. Fellow students were dropping like flies and all those kids sitting in their miniature desks and chairs would notice me munching on something if I didn’t move quickly.


So… I jumped on it. I grasped a small chunk of chalk in my sweaty hand.


I spelled my word correctly and went to the end of the line.


I smooshed the chalk into my mouth and chomped as quickly, thoroughly, as possible.


It did not taste like peppermint.


Not even a little bit. What a mean trick to play on a kid!


My disappointment was audible; I missed the next spelling word and sat down at my desk with my head hung low and my mouth foaming. I couldn’t ask for a drink of water because then I would have to admit to Mrs. Palmeri what I had done.


It was rough, my friends. Rough. Such a sad day.


I’m pretty sure this is why I still have trouble spelling “their” and “weird.”Or maybe I just never really embraced the whole “i after e except after c and in 63 other exceptions to the rule.”


What’s the strangest thing you ate as a kid?


This post was originally published March 15, 2013 and is being recycled as part of the “I’ve Been Around” summer! Hope you enjoyed it and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!



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