THIS I BELIEVE
I believe in handwriting.
I stayed home from school the day before my chemistry exam in the 11th grade and copied over my entire chemistry notebook. A few days after the exam, my very scary but fair chemistry teacher, Mrs. Murphy, called me to her desk and asked if I had cheated on the exam. “No,” I replied, “I copied my notebook over.” She pointed to a red 98 and said with a smile, “Well, that’s one heck of a study method.” “Thanks,” I smiled back.
When I write by hand, I am still. I am connected to many things: my thoughts, the little tendons in my hand that twitch, the sound of sssssh…sssssh….. as my pen moves across the paper. This paper from a tree that gives me a place to express my thoughts and hopes and frustrations. This slender “Le Pen” that comes in periwinkle, aqua, teal, black, and hot pink, so I can write loud or I can write soft. I like these creatures coming out of my pen – the swirly Ss and the long-tailed Ys.
My grandmother’s Ms looked like Ws and when she turned 84, her writing started sloping down and her trembly hand shook the letters until they were unrecognizable. I am watching my mother’s handwriting become tighter and she’s pressing down harder. I love rubbing the back sides of where she has written and feeling the bumps of her pressure. My father’s writing is heading further to the left. His letters look like toy soldiers leaning way back.
My brother tried out different handwritings while he was going through chemotherapy. I think he knew his cancer was changing him and here was this new handwriting to prove it. Tressa, my 3-year old daughter’s first scribbly but unmistakable T R E S S A has been saved and dated so she can go back and touch that day again.
I have a letter that my grandfather wrote to me when I was 3. He used lots of — — (dashes) and his letters were cleanly written in script with uncrossed Ts and big loopy Ps and Ys. And since I cannot hold his hand anymore, I treasure the piece of paper his hand touched.
I believe in handwriting, in the clues we give each other when we write with our hands — I feel shaky, I feel scared, I am excited!, I’ve done something new…, I feel illegible, but please read me anyway.
I believe in handwriting because it connects us — to a thought, a hope, a chemistry notebook, but mostly to another person. I think, when I write by hand, I am saying here I am, a part of me, reaching out to you. I poured some of myself out on this page that you are drinking in. So, are we not together? I think we ARE!
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