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a love story (with penmanship)

scene - third grade: the bang & hiss from the silver radiator in the back of the room. the rising heat and the scent of wet wool from our mittens all lined up and waiting for afternoon recess. a yellow sharpened pencil. a clean sheet of paper traced with two blue and one red stitched line. the small scratch of pencil on paper. my head bowed over the page, the scurried sigh of the pink eraser. my feet in tights and scuffed mary-janes crossed under my wooden desk. a perfect moment. a gold star.

i have always been in love with penmanship, with writing & words on a page. i loved the careful blocks of letters, the subtle bubble of the lower case a – perfection for a certain kind of girl – but then, THEN came cursive. and the delight that came from that palmer handwriting text in the third grade has never diminished. Cursive seemed to represent all the things that I wanted to be & do.

  1. be fancy with loopy letters
  2. be a grown-up lady 
  3. be able to write checks from a leather check-book with pretty polished fingernails.

 i started very, very small in the building of pink letter day. I sold tattoos at recess for one nickel. i “borrowed” my mom’s gel-pen from the phone message drawer and would do a single name in cursive across a bicep and felt the buzzing pleasure of collaboration. the customer left happy, back to kick-ball or fast-running or tether ball, and i would feel that i had done my bit to mark the world.

an otherwise ordinary thursday felt happier in the doing.

i love hand-lettering. and i love sweet paper shops with jingling bells on the door & in particular, i love the fabulous ladies of ephemera (the finest, finest stationery/wedding store in all the land) who let me sell my stamps and write addresses for their brides and then said “yay” to all kinds of ideas.

i love the fanciness of calligraphy and the humble beauty in the authenticity of a word written instead of typed on a screen. i love the scratch of pen on paper. the hush of the heat clicking on. i love the excitement in the delivery of just exactly what the person wanted. the bit i do to mark the world.