The sole exception, growing up, was my spelling bee prowess. I can modestly say I cleaned up in Sister Brendan's 4th grade class, blithely ABC-ing my way from antediluvian to xenophobia. My prizes? Holy cards and miraculous medals (I amassed a shoebox full of these babies). While it's been many a moon since I last stood in line to spell anything, when the need arises I can instantly supply the correct letters in the proper order.
As an adult, I discovered a bee substitute: charades. While, like spelling, this is not the world's most important skill, it is my skill, darn it! Charades is the perfect combination of abilities for someone (like me) who knows boatloads of esoteric book and movie titles, and is a ham to boot. My pulse races with excitement when it's my turn to either act out or guess (I love doing both equally). I especially enjoy pulling along the more reticent members of my team ("How many syllables? Huh? Huh? Come on, don't freeze up on me, we only have a minute left!") and hope they enjoy being pulled. Whenever we get the family together, charades is our number #1 post-dinner entertainment. The five kids grew up knowing the various signs ("play" is a hand lifted dramatically to the forehead, "sounds like" is a tug on the earlobe) and are fiercely competitive ("Oh, come on, that is NOT a song! I challenge you to sing it!")
Last Saturday was our church’s Oreland Cup Double-Elimination Charades Tournament. This lively event pit teams of four against one another, gradually winnowing out until two final teams remain to duke it out. The winners have their names inscribed (in magic marker) on the side of the Oreland Cup (a coffee can spray painted gold). Most participants take the evening in stride, relaxed and with good humor. Not me. I’m in it to win it. This year was no exception: I screamed, I gesticulated wildly, I “pulled” my poor teammates along. We gave (“Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk”) as good as we got (“The Book of Psalms”) and in the end…Team Elise won the day. Victory is sweet. My name is etched on the cup for posterity (at least until the can falls apart).
In real life, uses for charades may be limited (they help when communicating with my Taiwanese future in-laws). But are they any more pointless than a volleyball trophy? I think not. You can have your Science Fair Best in Show, your Most Improved Pitcher Award. Words are my specialty, and I’m not half bad at them. Ask me to spell, or act out, “prolix”. I’m your girl.