Sunday, March 3, 2013

Perfect Penmanship

When I was in first grade, I got an "N" in handwriting.  Although I was only two years into my school career, I was already sensitive to the difference between an "E" (for "Excellent") and an "N" (for "Needs Improvement").  And since I was an early reader, I had gotten a lot of E's, so when I saw the "N" on my report card, I was taken aback.  I vowed to do better.  I was determined to give my penmanship the improvement my first-grade teacher said it needed.  It took a couple of years of practice, but eventually, one of my handwriting samples came back from the Peterson Handwriting Company as an "Outstanding" example of their method (even though I never held the pen the Peterson-way and often bypassed the "round-round-ready-write" warm-ups).  Except for occasional lapses when I'm in hurry, I've had neat handwriting ever since.  Yet, as tidy as my penmanship was, it always paled in comparison to my mom's perfect handwriting.  She could have made the Peterson alphabet cards that lined perimeters of the classrooms of my childhood.  Her cursive letters were beautifully formed and perfectly slanted.  Her printing was neat and crisp even when she was in a hurry.  But this week, I got a letter from my mom, and I realized her handwriting has changed.  I can tell she's still taking great care when she writes, but the letters are shaky now.  The hand that formed them is unsteady.  And it makes me feel so, so sad—not because her handwriting isn't perfect anymore, but because it is yet another sign that my sweet mom is aging.  Things that used to come easily and naturally to her have become difficult—things like making her own meals, remembering names, and now, writing letters.  I wish life wasn't such a struggle for her; I wish I could smooth her way, just as she always smoothed mine.  And in the back of my mind I can't help but wonder how many years it will be before my own daughter, whose handwriting is also beautiful and neat, begins to notice my careful penmanship beginning to falter.  I hope, like my mom, I will keep writing letters to my children and grandchildren anyway, even though it takes longer and my hand is unsteady.  And I hope, like me, they will know that despite the shaky handwriting, the love behind the letters is steady and true.  

"G" for Gail

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