In fifth grade, my daughter, Lee, came home from school with news that she had won the school spelling bee. She would be moving on to the regional competition, which would be held at 7 o’clock at another school on a date a few weeks away.

She was very enthusiastic about her success, determined to do well.

We worked together every day, systematically covering every word in her practice booklet, beginning with the short and simple, then progressing to lengthy, seemingly nonsensical words that could hardly be “sounded out” much less defined.

It was hard not to be hopped up about it.

Lee brought home a paper that outlined the spelling bee details; I quickly perused it, then we continued studying. We invited grandparents, aunts and uncles, and had a nice-size entourage as we pulled up outside the school on the big night. There weren’t many cars there — curious — and as we headed toward the gym, we could hear the plunk, plunk, plunk of many dribbling basketballs. Why weren’t there chairs set up on the court for the competition? Slowly, it dawned on me that the event had taken place right here, on this day, starting at 7 o’clock ... 12 hours earlier.

We had missed the spelling bee.

Lee might have been the best that day. It still pains me, after almost 30 years, not to know.

Betsy T. Brady,

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