Are there words that can whisk you back to a certain place and time in your life? Certainly children of the 80’s hear “tubular” and think big hair and skinny ties. But, I’m referring to instances that are more personal, more specific. I’m talking about a time when for better or for worse, a word was forever imprinted in your memory. I learned how to spell adequate on a bus somewhere on a highway between New York and Pennsylvania.
I was in sixth grade and we’d taken a field trip to New York City. I don’t remember much, about the trip, but I do remember eating lunch on the observation deck on top of the World Trade Center. It was a cloudy day, so the view wasn’t much to speak of, but they had a gift shop (typical 11 year old).
After a long day sightseeing, we climbed aboard our “luxury motor coaches” for the trip home. This was the dark ages, before the Sony Walkman or Apple iPod, so we were left with few options to entertain ourselves. Some read, most talked, a few stared vacantly out the windows. Somewhere along the New Jersey Turnpike, a classmate remembered we had a spelling test the next day. Grrrooooaaann. Who schedules a spelling test for the day AFTER a field trip? My sixth grade English teacher Mrs. Embessi, that’s who. Years later I would come to appreciate her standards, but at the time, I was not amused.
My BFF back then was Kelly. Kelly was a good student and she was an excellent speller. I wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t as good as Kelly. She offered to quiz me on that week’s list. Knowing it was either learn it with her or go through it with my mother when we got home at 10pm, I agreed. I can still see her face under the reading light, with the pinpoints of lights that made up the cities and towns that lined the New Jersey Turnpike passing by the window behind her.
We went over the list several times and there were a few words I stumbled with, but adequate just refused to sink in. Finally Kelly popped up with “Think of it as Aye dee quady”. BOOM. From that day forward I could spell adequate without thinking twice.
If you knew my mother, you’d know that we still had to review the spelling words when I got home from the trip. There were mistakes and tears of exhaustion and frustration, but dammit, I spelled adequate correctly. I have no idea what I got on the spelling test, but I know for sure that I got adequate correct.
Are there words that when you hear them or use them take you back to a specific place and time?
*With apologies to Trisha Yearwood “The Song Remembers When“.
Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. She is currently a member of the Concord Monitor Board of Contributors. Her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe.