*This post was awarded an honorable mention by Scribbit in her March "Write-Away Contest".
I stare at the faces peering back at me. I smell pizza. The lunch bell is going to ring in 30 minutes. I repeat the word I've been given to spell in my mind a couple more times. Goddy. Gawdy? Seriously, how hard can it be to spell gaudy? I feel weak in the knees. This word does not ring a bell. Images of late nights, homemade spelling tests and a variety of dictionaries whiz through my mind. My mother encourages me with her eyes. Although the butterflies are clearly about to fly right out of my mouth I take another minute to compose myself so that I do not stammer. "Goddy, g-o-d-d-y, goddy".
"I'm sorry, that is incorrect."
All the butterflies flop back down into my stomach with a hard thud. I take a step back and sit down. There are only 4 students left. I'd won the 4th grade spelling bee and made it past 40 some odd 5th graders only to lose to the word "gaudy". And now I wouldn't be representing the school in the district spelling bee. Great. Just great.
I avoided my mothers eyes now. I'd disappointed her. And embarassed her. And I wanted nothing more than to disappear and show back up sometime next week when this was but a distant memory.
I don't have a lot of "fond" childhood memories. I came from a home where perfection was demanded and the repercussions of not attaining perfection were what I did not realize was "child abuse" until I was in my 20s. I've used what memories I have left (many have been stifled) to define my approach to motherhood. I feel that the best measure of how well I do as a mother is going to be what my children remember of their childhood. So, I am constantly asking myself, "Do I want them to remember this?" Do I want them to remember losing sleep night after night to the point of nausea to win a spelling bee? Or that I was the fun, spontaneous mom that let them have a camp in?
Thankfully I've chosen not to let ill childhood memories consume me. I am not bitter and I have forgiven my parents. I have instead chosen to find the good part in it all and use it to my advantage. Because of my mother's demands, I have interests and strengths to suit any fancy. And when I'm in desperate need of an outlet, I can choose to dance it out, play it out, or paint it out. I figure that in turn encourages my children to work hard to become good at what they love for themselves.
The curse that was my childhood has become a rare blessing, and because of that my memories have helped me hold onto the things I love. And I can wear them "around my neck like a rainbow, instead of a noose." (Hortense Calisher, Queenie, 1971 )