Writing by Hand and Memory, Part 2

This series began because I was going through my keepsakes and photos the other day. As I dug through a waterproof bin that holds some of my most mundane but meaningful treasures, I was struck by the power of writing to evoke memory.

Top row: My Grandma and my Mom Bottom row: My Great Grandma and me

My mother and grandmother are both deceased. As I dug through photos, postcards, greeting cards, letters, and other bits of paper, I realized that I inherited my love of reading and writing from them; they were both prolific writers. What’s more is I could glance at a card and know who wrote it. Their handwriting pushed memories at me – practicing handwriting at the kitchen table, writing notes to my grandma, and collecting poems and little stories to share.

Both women had lovely penmanship. My mother’s letters were clear and easy to read. Lovely, but not particularly ornamental either. I’m not sure I buy into graphology as a legitimate field, but in my mother’s case, her handwriting mirrored who she was. My grandmother’s handwriting was pure art. Every letter ended in a perfectly proportioned curl. Even on blank paper, her handwriting was level and evenly spaced. It was lovely to read and look at.

So, I wasn’t surprised when I found a certificate in her name for the Palmer Method of penmanship. She was an expert and her correspondence reflected her abilities. In fact, I remember toward the end of her life, she lamented the shakiness of her hand. She hated that she couldn’t write as beautifully has she once had.

As a someone who studies digital writing and tools, I can’t help but wonder what we lose when we stop teaching handwriting. Will future generations explore their digital files and have memories of the moment someone posted something to Facebook or the moment they were retweeted? Or, is there something about the materiality of handwriting that has a special power?

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