At 7, Nyasha Dixon wanted a room of her own. Sharing a bedroom with her 6-year-old brother and 4-year-old sister was getting on her nerves. You'd feel the same way if someone popped the head off your Little Mermaid doll, scribbled on your kitten stickers and threw your stuffed dinosaur out the window in a rain shower.
A big sister can only take so much.
Lots of kids draw pictures of houses. Nyasha, the oldest of four, drew houses with initials in the windows, always marking one room as hers. She longed for a place where she could lock the door, hide her toys and talk to her stuffed animals with no one pestering her.
One day earlier this fall, Nyasha went grocery shopping with her mother. The store was holding an Oreo cookie-stacking contest. "Do you want to try?" asked the lady at the Oreo table. While her mother shopped, Nyasha built a chocolate skyscraper so high that when her mother returned, the Oreo lady was raving: "Your daughter did so well!"
They didn't think much of it. But a few weeks later, a letter arrived, announcing that the Baltimore second-grader was one of 10 finalists in her age group in the National Oreo Stacking Championships. She'd earned a free trip to Florida for the finals and a chance to win a $20,000 savings bond.
Enough money, she figured, for a big house with you know what.
The competition took place last week. The first contestant was another local stacker: 7-year-old Ian Bembenek of Ellicott City. Ian, using the five-at-a-time stacking method recommended by rTC his father, calmly used his allotted 30 seconds to build a structurally sound, 22-Oreo edifice.
One kid after another attempted to better Ian's score. But after nine contestants, no one had.
The 10th, and final, contestant was Nyasha. "Ready, steady, stack!" yelled the judge.
The 30-second clock started ticking. Nyasha laid a two-Oreo foundation, and built from there, stacking and stacking until the cream-filled tower rose past her chin. Past her mouth. Past her nose. It wobbled and leaned, but she held it steady.
Then, when time was up, Nyasha removed her hands.
The tower collapsed.
Ian Bembenek was declared the National Oreo Stacking Champion and awarded the $20,000 savings bond.
For Nyasha, there was sadness, followed by consolation: A trip to Disney World with her siblings. But four kids under 8 and one parent is no easy trip, and her mother feels sure that were it not for Nyasha's help -- Please, Nyasha, hold the baby; Please, Nyasha, take your brother to the bathroom -- someone surely would have been left at the Magic Kingdom.
When she got home, Nyasha had a conversation with her stuffed animals.
"How did you do in the contest?" they asked.
"Fine," said Nyasha.
"I'm glad," they said. "How many did you stack?"
"A very big stack, but then it just curved and fell and I only had three Oreos left standing."
"Well, that's all right," said the stuffed animals. "At least you tried your best."
What made this conversation special wasn't that the animals answered back; they usually do. It was that it took place in a room in her home that used to be an office. With a little furniture shuffling, the office was easily converted into what her mother had decided in Florida was a much-deserved bedroom for Nyasha.
That, as they say, is the way the cookie crumbles. When she related this tale the other night, Nyasha shut her door, spread every doll she owned on the bed and ate Oreos dipped in milk, just the way she likes them. Out her bedroom window she could see the moon; it was only a sliver. But some day, she knew, it would be as round as you know what.
Pub Date: 11/05/97