Thursday, January 24, 2008


A Vanishing Art

by LuAnn Womach

Nearly 25 years ago, my grandmother moved from the home she had lived in for approximately 40 years and moved to a nursing facility in the same town. She was 86 years young at the time, and her mind was still as clear as the water she’d carried to her dad in the fields as a young girl. But physically, she’d started experiencing fainting spells, and my dad – an only child - decided it would be best if she had 24/7 care.

The summer following the move, my parents, sister, and myself, along with my two-month old daughter, cleaned my grandparent’s house, dividing memories and possessions among us. In some ways, we were careful to preserve the past, but in another sense, time was of the essence, and it seemed like we threw away quite a few relics.

While we were going through her “secretary”, we stumbled upon a wonderful treasure: letters that my dad had written to my grandparents. Grandma had saved every one of them. I could remember dad getting out the old Smith-Corona manual typewriter and writing a letter to them each week.

But another thing we discovered were notebooks – the old steno notebooks with the purple covers – filled with grandma’s handwriting. She never learned to type, and computers were definitely not around much during this time. She sent a letter to our house each week, too; each note handwritten. I can still see her distinctive style because I saved one of her notebooks. My mother and I have the majority of grandma’s recipe cards, each recipe kitchen-tested and grandmother approved, written on 3x5s along with helpful hints for the next time she made the dish.

Fast forward 20-some years and a similar situation presents itself. I still have the first note Scott gave me. It’s a combination of a thank you note for a sweatshirt I gave him and a grocery list for the weekend. I can’t part with it. I also can’t let go of a note I made from an email where he asked me 10 questions. I took notes and organized my thoughts on paper before replying. And there are birthday and Valentine’s cards that are too precious to part with. It’s a personal connection between the two of us, and I refuse to let it go.

Why is this important? Because handwriting – especially letter writing – is a dying art. Sure, technology offers countless advantages, but there is something about a handwritten letter, note, or card that offers a glimpse of the writer’s personality. Handwriting, itself, is a powerful tool. There’s something about the curve of a ‘c’, the tilt of a ‘t’, and the loop of a ‘y’. Handwriting is sexy, alluring, provocative. It’s a symbol of personality and penmanship. It affords a preview of what energy lurks inside each writer’s fingertips. And…it’s a national treasure that is losing ground, thanks to the convenience of the keyboard.

January 23 is National Handwriting Day, dedicated to the honor of John Hancock. (OK, so I’m a day late, but I did blog about it on my personal blog!) But I will admit, that I generally write first drafts on paper. There’s something about the feel of the pen between the fingertips and the hand grazing across the paper. Plus, since I’m a visual learner, I need to see the edits and rewrites on the page. I long to see words crossed out, arrows showing where passages should be moved, and paragraphs numbered so they can be rearranged.

Maybe handwriting is an obsessive-compulsive thing for me. I even have two pens I prefer to write with: a Papermate Flair, magenta-colored, or a Papermate Profile. They fit my hand and they are easy to manipulate.

Yes, handwriting just might be an obsessive-compulsive thing for me.

Writing by hand lets me see my thought process – or my lack of. That is something a word processing program can’t do because once your finger presses the delete button, your original thought vanishes before your eyes.


Blogger Cher'ley said...

I have a couple of letters my Grandpa wrote to my grandmother when they were dating. I also have all the cards, letters, etc. that I have received from my husband and kids. Well, from other people too. I have a big container where I save some of the grandkids drawings and colorings, their first strokes on paper.

My daughter wrote me a poem in the first day for her valentine card. It did the "Roses are red, violets are blue, I wish I didn't have to go to skool." Too cute.

I seem to save all my orginal drafts on the computer, so I have the crossed out versions, so to speak. But I enjoy the art of writing.

5:47 AM  
Blogger MP said...

I love writing by hand although I use the computer too. For journaling I have several favorite kinds of pens (lately, it's the the Micron Pigma .05 and a color collection of Staedler Stylus) and paper.

Those handwritten items from your relatives are priceless! You're so lucky to have them. :)

11:14 AM  

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