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Mello waxes fondly on LVA bee

April 29, 2002|By MARJO MELLO, Special to this newspaper

As a member of Soroptimists International of Brawley, I have participated in the Literacy Volunteers of America spelling bee since 1995.

Our proud team has come in third three times. We usually have some noisemakers in the audience who use bells, whistles and voices to cheer us on.

This is the first year that I will miss the bee. I'll miss the colorful T-shirts that the team members wear. I'll miss the pizza, salad and drinks donated by Pizza Hut, Vons and Pepsi-Cola of Imperial Valley. I will miss the nervous excitement of all the participants when it is their team's turn to spell.

We all stare in terror at the announcer hoping for a word that we've heard of, let alone one that we know how to spell. I remember last year there were three words that our team had never heard of, but we guessed their spellings correctly.

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We team members cheered more than the crowd. I hope the team is as successful this year; or maybe without me places even higher than third.

I have a wonderful reason for missing the bee this year. My parents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary Friday. They are an incredible testament to love, hope, nurturing, patience and the importance of educating their children. They are so proud each time I've told them about our team's third- place finishes. And they do deserve credit for making sure that I learned "I before E except after C"; that I learned how to add suffixes such as -ly; and that language is a rich part of my everyday life.

I learned to read at age 3. My parents and grandparents would read to me and I came to recognize some of the words on the page.

I increased my knowledge by lying on the floor with the newspaper. I would take my thick pencil in hand and circle any words that I knew. At times this meant I would circle a part of word, such as the "the" in "theater," or "cat" in "catsup."

I can still remember the gravely voice of my Grandpa, who would say, "Who got hold of the paper and why is it all marked up?" Grandma would just smile and point at my beaming face.

He'd then pull me up next to him on the couch. As I snuggled next to him, he would read the front page to me and let me pronounce the words or pieces of words that I knew.

I remember my dad teaching me my multiplication tables in one weekend by explaining to me that they were a quick way to add. He translated three times four into adding three groups of four, which made multiplication tables into a painless process.

I remember my mom's face during the summer that I was 11 when she came to wake me up one sunny morning and found that I'd stayed up all night to finish the book "Anne of Green Gables."

She knew then I had developed a remarkable love for the written word — spelled correctly, of course. And Mom knows I still stay up on occasion to finish a book I can't put down.

I will miss the spelling bee this year, but I will be celebrating 50 years of togetherness and a team who taught me the enjoyment of reading and the value of life-long learning.

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