Cursive will no longer be taught in school? Oh my, handwriting was such an important skill when I grew up. Even more so, for Mom; she has the most beautiful Palmer Penmanship in the world. I was lucky; I had a south-paw teacher who taught me the correct way to slant my paper, and drilled, drilled, drilled me. My penmanship is fair, but lacks the beauty of Mom’s. A letter from Mom spells love just by the shape of the letters.
Mr. W, helped me learn to write cursive. “Slant your paper to the left,” she said. “Except you.” Mrs. W stepped over to my desk and slanted my paper to the right. “You and I,” she said, “We write upstream from everyone else.” She gave me a wink like we had special powers no one else had. “We’re southpaws.” That’s another word for lefty. I figured that one out my myself, although I never did think it made much sense; I thought if lefty was a direction, it should be west-paw. Hands are right-left, east west, not up down, north south. Mom said sometimes it’s better not to think too much about things and just go with the flow. I always did have a hard time with that one. I mean, how the heck does someone stop thinking? I thought about that one for a while, and figured Mom must be wrong, but I better not tell her. I never could stop thinking, anyways, not even when I slept.
“Sit up Straight, Feet flat on the floor, left hand on top of paper, right forearm resting on the desk,” Mrs. W told everyone, then came over to me and adjusted my paper the opposite. Our special way.
Next came all the drills. Circle, circle, circle, like making a tornado across the page or a never-ending slinky. Up, down, up, down, like a deck of cards marching across the page. Lots of time to let my mind wander, ’cause all that circling and upanddowning took no thought at all. Maybe that was the whole idea: all those exercises took my mind off how to write and let me think about what I was going to write. Anyways, before long I could put my pencil down on paper and thoughts just flowed right out through the tip. I got so I thought better just holding a pencil.
Mom taught me how to write letters.
Thank you letters: Thank Grandma for what she gave you, tell her how you will use it. Let her know how much you appreciate the thought.
Pen-pals: Find someone who is far away and tell them what life is like for you here in Michigan, on a farm. Mom wrote to guys fighting the Big War when she was a teenager. I wrote to a girl in Germany, who hardly ever wrote back and what she did write was sort of uninteresting. When I got to be a teenager, wrote to Alice a grown woman in a mental institution. She never wrote back.
I imagined how much Alice loved getting letters from somebody, because she was all alone with no family or anything. I imagined how she loved seeing her name in my handwriting, just like I loved seeing my Mom’s handwriting when I got letters at camp. That was the best. I even kept one letter.
I was a teenager when Mom wrote this. By then, she had seven children younger than me, and one getting ready to fly the nest. I was only gone for one week. Just like when I went to 4-H camp when I was 10, she took time to write. I wish I knew what she was hoping, but alas, I lost the second page. Barely legible now, penciled on the back of this page is a reminder to herself in the same beautiful Palmer handwriting:
Material: 3 shorts – Vickie (1 mint green, 1 brown, 1 navy)
1 slack – Vickie
Bonnie: 2 shorts, 1 tennis shoe, 1 slack
Mom’s letter doesn’t say that much, but it says everything: here’s what happens when you are not here (I know you want to know,) here’s what’s on my mind, you are missed, you are important to me, and I am hoping for you.
Nowadays, my pen-pals are my blogging friends. I feel connected to people I’ve never met through our shared words. My dearest friends and family communicate using text and e-mail.
Still, an e-mail, doesn’t capture the love the way a scrap of paper rummaged from a purse; a letter squeezed between errands. No matter how many times an e-mail is opened and re-read, it will never show the creases and wrinkles that a cherished letter does.
No matter how creative we get at electronic signatures,