A Brief Memoir about Handwriting in my Childhood
It's National Handwriting Day today! I didn't even know this was a thing until I started lettering a couple of years ago. I'll be celebrating by hosting #justpickupapen's first Pen Meet tonight (January 23, 2018) from 5.30 to 7.30 pm at 61 Local in Brooklyn! Come join me!!
And for now, maybe you'll allow me a trip down memory lane back to where it all started. :-)
My own history with handwriting probably began before the age I have conscious memory access to. Every child starts gripping pens and making marks on paper around maybe 2 or 3 years of age, right? I wish my parents had kept some of those to show you, but a trip to the attic when I visited them didn’t yield anything.
I started first grade in 1981. I remember workbooks from that time where we learned cursive and practiced the same letter over and over. I remember the lined notebooks that gave us baseline, waistline, ascender and descender space. What I remember vividly is my mum scolding me for not writing on the line, but above it. My clear response was - “at least I’m writing evenly above the line!” All my letters were off by a similar degree, so that means it’s ok, right? Tell you what, I *still* have trouble staying inside the lines all the time. ;-)
The yearly report cards from the first two grades mentioned my handwriting was neat and legible. But I was always a “good” kid, eager to follow instruction and do what I’m told. In that way, I think learning new styles and alphabets as an adult has been a pleasant experience, because I do what the teachers tell me: light up, heavy down!
I also remember being jealous of a classmate. Her father was an architect and designer, and she always had the coolest pens and pencils. They were the best quality, the amazing brand names with vivid inks and dazzling pigments. We didn’t really have a lot of disposable income in my household, so I used store brands and no-name products, staring longingly at her stash. Her images were a lot better than mine, because she was also the more talented artist. I couldn’t help but wonder if my skills would improve with better tools. Don’t feel too bad for me, though, I’m more than making up for lost time now. One can never have too many pens, right? ;-)
The first item on our list of school supplies was a fountain pen. We were not allowed to write with biros, we learned cursive with a fountain pen. The two recommended brands were Pelican and Geha (only that one classmate actually had a Lamy), and we were only allowed to use Royal Blue ink. Red ink was reserved for the teacher, green ink for the school director, and to my recollection, students didn’t start introducing black or purple shades until middle and high school.
We hand-wrote all of our class notes, homework, and assignments, so there were plenty of refill ink cartridges to be bought at the local stationery store. I believe my purple ink phase coincided with my circling the i’s, but I don’t think that lasted very long. Our poor teachers; the papers they had to put up with…
On top of school work, I also had a number of pen pals. I started learning French in 7th grade, and our school was partnered with two schools in France, in Britany, for an exchange program. I also had pen pals in Italy and Norway, and I remember going to the post office for stamps every week, often posting five letters at a time. I saved those letters and the most beautiful stamps for a while, but there comes a time where one’s teenage correspondence should be let go and left in the past.
I remember buying a broad-nib calligraphy pen in high-school, only I didn’t know how to use it. My writing had the most irregular widths. I became quite frustrated and dropped it really quickly and wouldn’t pick one up again until about 20 years later - and you’re basically looking at what came next.
What’s your handwriting story?