My most memorable spelling bee moment was in the third grade at Edgar P. Harney Elementary School in New Orleans, La. The year was 1963. I knew I was going to win that particular class contest. I was going to get that gold star on the middle of my forehead. I was going to run home with my golden crown, screaming, "Mommy! I won! I was the new kid on the block.
I knew I could spell because I didn't always understand the various dialects spoken by my family, my babysitters and the natives. We are a melting pot of races. So, I mastered spelling. I had to show my team as their captain that I was a winner with words. I was going to be crowned the best of the best. It was the only way to stroll to the "head of the class."
Every student before me was stuck, falling to the wayside. My tapping feet were jumping for joy. I struggled to contain my hands. My eyes stared straight ahead at my competitor. The other captain was smart, like me. But, I knew she was going down for the count. I was on a serious mission. I would be declared the one and only winner, once and for all.
My brain raced as I strolled down memory lane. I felt my blood rushing to my head. I knew that word existed in my gut. I chewed it to the bare bones to get to the delicious marrow. I raised it, since it was a teen weenie baby. I killed it, every time they made me do it in front of the entire clan of bookworms.
My brilliant older cousins attended Yale, Vassar, and Grambling. Competition was in my blood. I slaughtered it with my bare hands for all to see, old and young applauded. Once, I tried to cook it for my Grandfather Miles. I savored it as if it was my last meal. I relished every drop of it. I licked my fingers each time it was served by my mommy, Mary Jane, a professional cook. She loved hearing me spell everything. I smelled it before I got to the front door.
I counted each piece, measuring which one is the better, dark or white, big or small. It didn't matter. I wanted to fly with it. I knew that word. I had dreams about it. Hmmm! I loved it, like no other. C-H-I-C-K-E-N