One of the highlights of my youth was my Spelling Bee career. When you're a pudgy little nerd, you take your competitive events where you can get them, and I was a great speller. In 8th grade I took the Denver written spelling test and I did well enough to qualify for the state test, also in Denver. That memorable day began with the test in a fancy hotel downtown, followed by a lunch banquet for all us little geeks and our parents. After lunch, the top 20 spellers, based on the state written test, were announced, and I was one of them!
They piled us into taxis – my first ever, having grown up in suburbs, where everybody has a car – and sent us to the studios of channel 7, a local TV station that broadcast the final rounds live. I survived for an hour or so under the hot studio lights. What pressure! Then, with 5 people remaining, I met my fate: frontispiece, which I misspelled "fronticepiece". Ding! My fifth-place finish earned me a dictionary, which I still have somewhere.
All my spelling bee memories are happy. There was no cramming, no parental or self-imposed pressure, no worrying. I only wished there had been a professional spelling league in which I could become a star and earn a living. Yes, dreams die hard.