January 23rd is National Handwriting Day. No, you don’t have to run out and buy gifts and cards, but a nice handwritten note to someone you love might be nice!
My Great Aunt Mary had beautiful penmanship. It was the result of hours and hours spent making swoops and curls that filled the front of her slate while critical school teachers looked on. Back then, there was a right way to form letters and every other way was wrong. Boys and girls alike were taught that clear, precise penmanship was to be admired. A lovely hand was a sign of intelligence and grace and ought to be strived for.
My mother also grew up in the age of longhand. After she passed, we found countless notebooks filled with her thoughts and memories, all written out in script. They are that much more valuable because of her lovely, familiar handwriting. I even have one of her school penmanship books from the 1930’s.
My generation learned to write in the ball and stick style. Almost every letter could be manufactured using a ball and/or stick in some way. The problem was that transferring balls and sticks into cursive didn’t quite work. So, we had to begin all over again, making circles and loops across our papers, much like our ancestors did.
We received marks for handwriting every year just like any other important subject and I always failed miserably. It was only as an adult that I realized it probably had something to do with being a lefty. Back then, schools handed out pencils with soft lead, and beige lined newsprint for us to write on. My left hand smeared everything I had just written and by the time I handed in my papers they resembled nothing more than gray blobs. My life changed once I found quick-drying pens and I handwrote my essays clear into college.
Times have changed though and I hear that some schools aren’t even teaching cursive anymore. I was horrified when I heard this. My son, on the other hand, celebrates it as the next step in technology. As checks become outdated and even legal documents can be signed electronically, there are fewer and fewer reasons to use cursive. That fact makes me sad.
Perhaps I value handwriting because I spent so many tortured hours perfecting my own penmanship. I love seeing how people’s personalities show in how they form their letters. Receiving a handwritten note fills me with warm, fuzzy feelings.
So, I can’t agree with my son that cursive is an archaic, useless art. I will always cherish the handwriting samples I own from my friends and ancestors. Whether messy or neat, tall script or wide printing, I love them all and wouldn’t part with them for the world.
So, how will you celebrate National Handwriting Day? Is there someone who would cherish a handwritten note from you? I say, buy yourselves some colorful pens and get back to writing!