One such illumination happened to me recently as I was penning the very last of 25 thank you notes I had been writing in response to the myriad of gifts and meals we've received since Isla was born. Just as I was about to complete my task I questioned how to spell grateful. Turns out, it is not spelled greatful!
Okay, to me, grate is either 1) something you do to cheese, or 2) a metal covering for a sewer. Neither grate nor grating has any connotation of thanksgiving! Although perhaps I should be more grateful that sewers are covered and that I have a lesser chance of stumbling into a cesspool while out on a stroll. I just never thought of it that way.
Me upon learning my mistake
Perhaps feelings are not a reliable compass to get to the true north of spelling accuracy. Unfortunately, for people like me, trying to navigate the written English language is like trying to use a compass in a magnet factory: you're never going to find your way out of there!
I didn't use the word grateful in every note. I was not about to go and rip open all 25 of them to correct my mistake in the few of them that contained it. Hopefully the recipients will chalk it up to a case of "mom brain."
So, if you got a note from me with any misspelled words you'll know my deep dark secret: I cannot spell. I am a child of the spell check generation. Since no technology has been invented that allows spell check to do its fancy correcting in hand-written notes, this is where I find myself.
I suppose I should be grateful that this came to light now, when I'm only approaching my 30's, rather than in my old age when I will have had a lifetime of misspelling that word. I can only presume that such an awareness at that advanced stage of life would give me a heart attack and hasten my death rather than merely producing the minor embarrassment that I feel now. (Never mind that most 1st graders can probably spell grateful.) But this whole incident has me concerned about all the other words that I don't know how to spell that I don't know that I don't know how to spell. These unknown unknowns are the stuff of nightmares, spelling and otherwise.
I'm sure that there is probably another misspelled word in this very post that will lead to another bout of embarrassed face-hiding.
This reminds me of an incident way back in elementary school when I was required to write "Spelling" on top of the weekly spelling tests administered in my class. Week after week I continually forgot the "e" in "Spelling." I'm sure the teacher grading my "Splling" tests didn't entertain high hopes for me upon seeing that heading. But look at me now! Thanks to the advent of spell check any dunce can write sufficiently to get a college degree! Thanks spell check! I only wish that I could download you directly into my brain.