It all started in my heart with Jefferson.
Well, no, really it started when I was so young I could barely see over the top of a desk drawer, probably in the year 1953.
In that desk drawer was a Big Chief tablet. I knew it was in there and although I was very little, I’d stand tip toe to find it, to no avail. I knew it was mine because my mom had let me scribble in it one time.
But I’d never seen it after that.
Often I’d ask my mom for my “medicine book”. She had no idea what on earth! I told her it was in the drawer, but she never figured it out.
I got a tad older and a smidgen taller, and lo! I spied my medicine book in that drawer, finally! I remember the day! And finally I got to write in it again.
It was years later when I explained to my poor mom why, to me, that writing tablet was a medicine book.
As I grew up in a stable, loving home, I began noticing people wrote letters. Specifically, my mom wrote, often, to her mom. I could pick out a penciled letter from my gramma to this day. I knew her writing; it is still so familiar to me, as is my mom’s.
Even later, when I was a gramma, myself, I learned of many more letters my mom had stored in all her estate collections. Letters came from her sisters that she had cherished, that I now cherish. What a gift to learn that my mom’s big sister had thought she was “the nicest baby, ever…”!
These women left behind a legacy of connection to their personalities, as they shone brightly through their words of love.
I remember when handwriting analysis was a popular fad, as a method of determining your personality type. But I think the constancy of writing and the loving content say as much or more about a person than penmanship does.
And I loved their signatures. I marveled at cursive writing I could not copy—though I tried—and envied the speed with which they wrote.
Sometimes, even now, my writing looks like my mom’s, which is okay with me, and makes sense, after all, because my hands also look like hers.
When it comes to real penmanship (or lack of it—as in my dad’s case) I might be a collector. I’ve mastered several writing styles and considered others. D’Nealian, Spencerian, and a few loopy styles with small hearts for punctuation, were among my sidetracks on the road to my own signature. I finally discovered the more recent Getty-Dubay, as a landing place.
However when I forget that I’ve adopted a certain style, my hand returns to my matriarchs and I watch with a wry smile, as my mom’s spare and simple etchings scoot across the page. Or my gramma’s.
They say Lucy Ball had several official signatures for checks, autographs, contracts, etc.
And then there was Jefferson, the man whose astonishingly beautiful hand (using ink!) was in part responsible for his being the writer of our Declaration of Independence. And I think of John and Abigail Adams patiently recording the aching history of our country, along with their aching love for each other, over years of separation, in letters to each other.
Then I consider us, these days, and our writing habits to each other. I should say “typing habits”. Or is it “keyboarding”? Our yucky, guttural acronyms, smh! Our fbmsg’ing trade slang—tell me, do these show our trite personalities?
Can it be said that the appreciation and care we once had for each other is missing as we neglect taking time to share our words in an artistic way, these days?
Or is it our lifestyles that are bereaved, causing us to fail at grasping the value of time, itself, of words shared, and of the beauty of a personality revealed in the hand?
You may think people used to write. You may think no one expects it, anymore. You are absolutely right. Which makes a letter all the more precious.
I won a writing contest one time, on a hugely famous site that doesn’t really matter to this story. But what happened after that does matter:
I did not just pocket the money and gloat on the website. I noticed a tiny address at the bottom of every email the owner had sent me, and I got out my girly, lavender, sparkly notecards and wrote him a thank-you note.
And you know what? This guy who wrangles many assistants and thousands of joyful fans and millions of dollars, sent me a private email! He said he got the note and—drumroll please—it made his day! Or maybe he asked someone to send it for him, but he noticed and made that connection.
It was my mom, speaking in my memory, teaching me years ago, to write a thank-you note. I remember she said it was imperative.
Write! It is imperative.
Pencil something to someone.
Or ink it if you dare.
And make it good, coming from your heart.
For your grandchildren someday.