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Thursday, May 29, 2014


Dear Josie,

I hate sparkle.  The game, not the glittery noun.  

You stand around in a circle and spell a word, each person contributing a letter in its respective order.  If someone makes a mistake, the next person in line calls them out.  The mistake is corrected and the sorry fool who got it wrong must sit back down.  Last one standing wins.

My second grade class played "Sparkle" all the time.  I loved it.  I would daydream about our vocabulary words, letters and sounds and pronunciations as if they were some prize to be won.  I was good at Sparkle.  Very good.

Until one day, Ms. Toczylowski lined us up.  The word was calendar. 

We made it around the entire class, seemingly without error.  We smiled, confused as our teacher refused to give us the next word, mystified as to who had messed up.  She proceeded to ask each student for their input, around the room once again and twenty two puzzled faces. 

I remember feeling angry.  Someone had ruined our chance, made the mistake I couldn't correct.   I scanned the crowd in search of the culprit.  Someone was going to get it.  Who dared interrupt this fluency?  This six year old's perfect record.

Then she looked at me.

I heard it then.  My own voice in my head.  Proudly, confidently yelling "E", where one should have yelled "A". 

I remember my face growing hot as my classmates jeered.  Why did the game have to stop?  After all, I was the one who had made the mistake.  But our teacher, a fervent disciple of phonetics and responsibility would have it no other way.  Everyone had missed the error.  Everyone had made the mistake. 

Later that night I would tearfully explain the horror of my day at the dinner table, describing in detail every dirty look I had received at recess.  The embarrassment and the shame and the guilt. 

My father looked at me then.  I remember his reassuring smile as he told me that my turn had been the most difficult.  The rest of that word is easy, Nora.  You got the hardest part. 

So much of this life no longer makes sense to me.  The rules and the lessons that evade you.  The tragedy that hits you upside the head, leaving you in pieces, bouncing away like red rubber on asphalt.

I try to tell myself there is a lesson here, but some days it's just so hard to hear her. The younger version of myself screaming from the bleachers.  Hold on.  Keep going.  You got the hardest part.  


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