I could talk about the graduating from college with honors. Or my bylines in newspapers and magazines. I could even point to my daughter and tell you I am most proud of the fact that pushed her out my hoo-ha without any pain medication even though I had been induced, which (and trust me on this) is probably the reason she is still an only child. Well, that, and the hellacious pregnancy, multiple hospitalizations before and after having her, and the missing pregnancy amnesia everyone promised me I would eventually experience.
Have I mentioned I am still waiting on that?
But if I have to be honest, another moment shines brighter.
I was six. My sister four. And even though I can't remember why, I know I was mad at her. But instead of just telling her, I decided to use my new found spelling skills to write her a letter expressing my feelings.
We were at my Tia and Tio's house for the weekend, a tradition started by my uncle when they started picking me up as a baby for a few days to give my parents a break. I remember curling myself up on the bed with a sheet of paper and a pen, pursing my lips in deep concentration as I tapped the pencil against my chin. This was my first letter, after all. I wanted it to be good.
Veronica had made me mad. I don't remember what she did, but I was the first-grade equivalent of livid. But didn't Mrs. Ganoff say that there were words that sounded different that meant the same thing? And other words that meant the same thing but more? Like pretty and bee-u-tee-ful? (Besides, I had no idea the word livid actually existed.)
I brightened at the thought. I could really get my point across if I used a "more better" word than mad. Because, really? "Dear Vica, I am mad at you," just wasn't enough. But what word could I use? And could I spell it?
Gripping the pencil tightly, I carefully printed out, "Dear Vica..."
After careful consideration, I added the words "I" and "am".
And that's where I got stuck again. At least until inspiration struck. Quickly, I erased the word "am" and started writing "h", "a" and "t".
Now what was that spelling rule Mrs. Ganoff had just explained in school? Oh! I remembered! If you add the letter "e" to the end of a word, it changed the short vowel sound to a long one! But I still needed to be sure. I didn't want to embarrass myself with a typo in my first ever letter, did I?
"Tia! How do you spell hate?"
Without thinking, she answered my question.
I climbed off the bed, walked over to Tia Elvia, and handed her my letter.
"Can you please read this to Vica? I'm not talking to her right now."
It probably goes without saying that I spent a little time in my room that afternoon. And while my aunt and uncle weren't exactly pleased with my request to read my innocent little four-year-old sister a letter telling her how I hated her, the muffled laughter as they made their way down the hall was all I need to hear to let myself fall back on the bed with a happy sigh.
Short and long vowels?
I? Just won.