"Your word is TREBLE," I enunciated as clearly as I could. "TREBLE."
The tiny girl with the fuchsia bow perched atop hair the color of nutmeg pensively stood with the tip of her finger in her mouth. The audience sat attentively in fold down bleachers in the ancient, high-ceilinged gym.
"Um, could you pwease use it in a sent-tence?" she asked shyly, wiping her finger on her floral dress.
I read the sentence from my spelling bee pronouncer's list. The two judges next to me waited.
"T...AWW...E...B...B...E...L," she spelled into the microphone.
The judges' bell dinged, signifying a misspell. She sighed, put her head down and headed to the seats with the eliminated spellers.
I gave her a little smile as she passed our table, whispering, "Good try! ", although I don't think she heard it.
This was the Baby Bee for children in first through fourth grades and immediately followed the very competitive bee for the older students. But my mind was far from spelling bees that day. I had a community wide 5K run the next morning I was in charge of, a grant proposal I needed to finish writing, and I was still a little shaken from the first ever car accident I'd been in the day before in my two week old car. To boot, I had a meeting and a play practice that night. It felt like a stormy little cloud had suspended itself over my head the whole week.
Still, I felt for this petite first grader. I didn't know her name, but since we are a small district and share one cafeteria, I'd seen her at various times with her class, sometimes wearing a wispy, wee set of fairy wings on her back.
The Baby Bee ended and parents and students thronged around the winner and runner up. I gathered my materials from my table and felt a timid tug on my sleeve. The Treble girl stood at my side. Her chin quivered even as her eyes welled with tears.
"I know how to spell it, weally, I do!" she pleaded.
I knelt down to speak to her face to face. "Oh, honey, I know you do. You did very well today. I'm so proud of you because you made it all the way to the finals!"
"I just fowgot this time. I studied it and I know it, but I just messed up," she said urgently.
I pulled a Kleenex from my purse and dabbed her cheeks.
"Would you like to spell it for me, right now?"
A smile creased her face for the first time. She nodded furiously. She moved back in front of my table and I moved back into my chair. I cleared my throat. "Your word is TREBLE. TREBLE."
I smiled at her and nodded my head. She picked up the cue.
"T...AWW...E...B...L...E...Tweble," she recited.
I clapped my hands and congratulated her. She smiled and clenched her fists over her head. She skipped to the doors to join her class, but stopped, spoke something to her teacher, and headed back to me.
Her finger hooked in the corner of her mouth as I knelt down again.
"Um, I have faiwy wings I like to put on sometimes."
I nodded. "I've seen you wearing them. They are beautiful."
"My mom says only special people can have faiwy wings. They have to be good and kind to weaw them."
She smiled shyly. " I want to ask my mom if I can bwing them because I want you to weaw them."
As so often happens when guileless kindness is given to me, a knot of emotion filled my throat.
She leaned her head in close. "But you have to give them back to me at the end of the day. They awe the only ones I have."
Although I hadn't thought of it before, fairy wings are the perfect tonic.
And I'm going to find a way to strap them on.
Wishing you all some fairy wings today, my friends~