So much pride in the air. Pop rock flavor and powdered sugar charm as parents cast their heart strings up to their sweet little ones on stage. The pensive energy was palpable as each student approached the mic. Some were astute. Others aloof. Tense and fidgeting, twisting an awkward foot inward, grasping onto a pocket of clothing.
Breaths held. Parents mouthing the letters. A sigh of relieve. A moan of distress. A sibling giggling.
She stood in her blue dress, carefully styled with matching tights and black ankle boots. Precocious and mature for her eleven years. Her short bob hung just above the collar of her blue jean jacket. She walked up to the stage with a bounce. Her cleverness hid behind a crooked smile, but shone unabashedly in her wise eyes.
Grandma sat in a folding chair, VIP, first row seat. Her oversized jacket falling casually off her shoulders. Loafers and white socks tapping the cold tile of the gymnasium anxiously, with bated breath hanging on each letter.
She coasted through the first few rounds. Her quirky style winning a few laughs from the crowd. Then she stepped up the last time. She started spelling, then lost her way. She forgot the, “a.”
“Wait, where did I leave off?” she asked the facilitator. I felt her panic. She tilted her head up to the right when she spelled, and now she was out of her groove. A well of dread flooding up to her head.
The facilitator sympathetically encouraged her to continue. The rules are once you spell, you gotta dwell. You have to stick with your original route.
She started again. She spelled it correctly.
Not that it mattered. Her fate was already sealed.
“No, I’m sorry that’s incorrect,” she was informed.
She shook her head and stood off to the left, only to listen to her competitor spell it the exact same way she had. With a gracious smile she went to find a seat to the side.
Then it happened. Even in her disappointment, she gave her competitor a congratulatory thumbs up as he walked past.
I watched her then, as she bit her cheeks and look off to the side to fight the surging tears. For minutes she sat like this. A true beauty. Bright, with a beautiful heart, fighting the mishap with utter poise and grace.
Her peers finished the spelling bee and a winner was appointed.
In my judgement, if I could’ve given a trophy and a thumbs up, it would have been for Little Lucy. She may have dropped in an extra, “a,” but she handled herself with grace beyond her years. Fighting back tears. Holding a smile. Finding the strength and compassion to salute her peer.
These actions spelled out the most memorable events of the night. A winner in my eyes.