Illegibly Yours

As I look down at my scratchings that I euphemistically call a signature, I can’t help but wonder just what the heck happened. Looking less than actual letters and more like my pen had a seizure, I think about what my sixth grade teacher, Miss Aubin would say. Actually, I’m betting that she wouldn’t say anything. She’d more likely take my paper, crumple it up and toss it in the trash can, then look at me with one hand on a hip, an arched eyebrow and hand me a new piece of paper to take and try again.

Miss Aubin wasn’t big on subtlety.

In our computerized and keyboard driven world, it’s pretty uncommon to see anything substantial written out in long had, let alone in elegant cursive. Even my notes, quickly scribbled in my blank book or on an errant, half mangled sticky pad, looks for all the world like a doodle rather than the disparate and important reminders of food to buy or stories to write. I can barely read it at times and honestly, that makes me a bit ashamed.

Having gone to school in the days where you actually had to write things out… in PEN and in CURSIVE, I’m astonished to see how far I’ve slipped. Granted, the ink wells in the corner of the desk had long since dried up, but I vividly remember the days I spent hunched over lined paper, desperately trying not to drag my left hand through what I just put down and glancing up at the Palmer Method guide, stretched out like a ribbon over the black chalk board.

Loop up, line down, loop back the other way and voila! The letter “J” was complete and now on to the next.

Imagining all the pages and pages I laboriously worked my way through, I’m astonished to find that writing long hand in cursive eludes me now. A few months ago I decided to try my unsteady had at it again and was horrified to find that to complete a simple sentence, I once again had to look up the guide I thought I left behind long ago. I hated penmanship class back then, but now that I find I can’t do it any more, now that Miss Aubin isn’t there looking at my work with disproval and I STILL stink at it… it’s ticking me off.

The big problem here is that I never actually write anything any more. It’s all typing. For starters, I’m far faster at typing than at writing and then, if I do happen to find a pen in my hand and a piece of paper in front of me, it’s usually to draw something rather than jot down some pithy discourse. To be fair, I don’t type much in the way of pithy discourse either. But that’s not the point.

The point is, having never been very proficient at penmanship, switching to typing as soon as was possible and never looking back has left me with the scribing abilities of a one armed, concussed orangutan. And that’s when I’m trying. Now that my son has reached the point in his life where letters are taking on meaning, he’s happily pointing them out to me and even making the first attempts at writing them himself. Again, this makes me look at my own wobbly scratchings and wonder what kind of a roll model I am. Is he really supposed to look at my own hand and think, “Yah! That’s the ultimate goal! My writing needs to look like that!”

Not bloody likely.

What’s more likely is that writing by hand will be a short lived step on his way to literacy. Hey, he already knows how to use some of the buttons on my laptop, so why would I expect anything else? Handwriting, cursive especially, has become quaint. Anachronistic even. So why am I so concerned?

Perhaps it’s the grumpy old man in me, but in MY DAY, you had to write things out with a pen and in script. No printing, dag gummit! To see cursive disappear all together makes me rather sad and knowing that I am not the one to teach it to my own children make things difficult. My Wife, Action Girl has far more legible penmanship than I do but, alas, it’s not cursive either, but a hybrid born out of the need for speed.

This is where my Mom comes in.

My Mother has some of the most beautiful handwriting I’ve seen. Her notes look like art to me and I could pick out anything written by her in a heartbeat. A few weeks back as I was moving some boxes at my old shop and noticed a note that she had written on one. It wasn’t much. It just told what was in the box.


That’s it. One word… and, it was elegant, perfect cursive. More than legible, it was what we all wish our handwriting could be. As soon as the box was out of my hands, I picked up my phone and called her.

“Mom, I have one request. When the kids are old enough, could you please teach them cursive?”

She laughed and so did I but I’m serious about this one. Even if Short Stack and Lulu Belle don’t stick with it, I really want them to know what it means to be able to look down at what you just penned and be pleased. I don’t thing I’ve ever had that moment. Hopefully the handwriting genes skip a generation.

So, am I being an old curmudgeon by wanting my kids to know cursive? Should I just go whole hog when it comes to old things we don’t need any more and pull out the abacus and washing board while I’m at it? I don’t know where that line is drawn, really. Some day soon, I think we will see the end of cursive being taught in school all together and honestly, I can’t see where that will do any great harm to society, but it will be a loss that some of us will lament. The discarding of the decorative for the blocky and easy. It makes me think of all the scroll work you see on industrial machines from the dawn of the last century versus the machines made now. Where’s the beauty?

In the mean time, I’m going to try hold on to a bit of the past and attempt to pick back up where I left off in Miss Aubin’s class. Let’s see if I can relearn a lesson I last undertook when I measured my age in single digits. It’s going to be humbling, no doubt, but I’m up for it. Who knows, I might even enjoy the effort of relearning it this time around?

Yah, I don’t believe that either.

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