Laura Haley-McNeil

12/10/17, Penmanship

Hello, Everyone!

As the holidays approach, I hope you’re finding time to relax and enjoy quiet time or joyous times with family and friends. This time of year always seems like a roller coaster. It whizzes by fast and feels like a blur. We have December birthdays in our family so that keeps us busy while we schedule other events with work and friends and shopping.

Of the many delights I enjoy during the holidays, I especially enjoy the Christmas and holiday cards. I receive cards from people I only hear from at Christmas time. So many of them send newsy letters with events that they’ve experienced throughout the year. Not often, but I sometimes receive handwritten cards. I envy someone whose penmanship is beautiful enough to write a card. Mine is sorely lacking despite the years I spent in parochial school. Penmanship was very important when I was growing up, but was a skill I didn’t acquire. Even today, I type and print a letter rather than handwrite a card. If I do write a card, I keep the note short and use a ruler to keep the written line straight, then review the note so I can add the extensions to the letters that dip below the written line. I don’t want the recipient to struggle through my chicken scratch. I have a friend who taught elementary school. Her cards are so beautiful. She usually sends us a photo of her and her family and on the back of the photo writes a summary of the trips she and her husband took and the latest news regarding her children and grandchildren.

I had always thought that some people were just gifted with beautiful penmanship, but then I learned that many of these writers take classes to improve their skills. I had read that in centuries past, beautiful penmanship was a skill of the upper class. Many of the founders of our country had undergone instruction to improve their penmanship. Think John Hancock. I was struck when I read this. The penmanship skills reveal to us today the class standings of the writer. A diary or letter written by someone from the lower class would be indicated by the plainness of the writer’s penmanship. I know we’re digging into the weeds here, but I find this piece of information fascinating, and realize that my writing would class me as lower class. Both my parents took penmanship classes. They had beautiful handwriting. My mother was an artist and everything she created was beautiful. My father was an engineer, but penmanship was important to him. One of my sisters took a calligraphy class. When she married, she addressed her own wedding invitations. They were lovely. I was glad to hire someone to address my wedding invitations. The thought of addressing several hundred envelopes makes my hands cramp.

Sadly, I understand that cursive is no longer taught in many schools. Though it wasn’t a skill I acquired, I still admire it and am happy to receive a note or letter in cursive. Even if at work it’s a post-it note attached to a printout. It’s wonderful to see beautiful handwriting.

I hope the weeks leading to the holidays finds you enjoying wonderful moments with loved ones or relaxing someplace warm. With our cold weather, a day on the beach sounds wonderful right now. Whatever your plans, I wish you peace, joy and love throughout the holiday season.