The Lost Art of Penmanship

Writing a letter is a lost form of art.   Once upon a time, letter writing was the only way to communicate.  At that time, the prose was more romantic, the wording more lyrical, and the grammar nearly flawless.   Of course that was before the days of the internet, back with the Post Office didn’t bleed you dry just to mail a letter, and when someone wrote “I love u”, it meant you loved the letter “u”.   These days, there are comma splices every where, slang and lingo have taken over the way people communicate, and confusion over how to actually start writing a letter abounds.

I wrote my first letter when I was seven.  It was my first summer away from my parents.  I didn’t actually spend the entire summer away from them, more like two weeks, but for someone who’d yet to stray from her parent’s grasp, two weeks seemed like an eternity.   My aunt and uncle from Baton Rouge, La had come to visit us and I flew back down with them.   At first, I believe there was a bit of trepidation on my part, but then reality sank in and it became clear to me that I would finally have something that was all mine.  The birth of my younger brother less than a year before was sucking all of my parent’s attention away from me and to know that I would be free from him seemed like paradise.

While down in Baton Rouge, my aunt encouraged me to write a letter home, a sort of summer camp letter, minus the whole “Hello, Mutha.  Hello, Fatha.”  She bought me my first stationary, a beautiful red pen and even made a snack for me.  We sat down at her kitchen table that afternoon and I pounded out my first letter.

I wasn’t new to writing at that point.  I could write quite well and spelling was my forte, as I was already winning spelling bees by the time I hit first grade.  I found writing the letter to be exhilarating.  It was fun and intoxicating.  I wanted to write a letter every day, each time I embarked on some new adventure.   Fortunately for me, stamps were super cheap back then and my aunt was patient.   I wrote quite a few letters that summer, and even wrote my first story.

I’m not so naïve to believe that the art of putting pen to paper will ever be revived, but that doesn’t mean my boys will not understand how to write a letter and the importance of it.

I started working with Davey a few months ago on learning how to write.  We’d spent months prior to that with workbooks where he could trace letters, but I decided that it was high time we progress past that and start writing his ABC’s on his own.  I didn’t know he would take to it so quickly and happily.

Dear Mimi
Dear Mimi

Last week, I encouraged him to write his first letter, which was to his Grammy in NY.   I put Henry down for a nap, thereby allowing me all sorts of time to devote to Davey.   I spelled the words for him and he wrote the letter.   It was simple and basic, getting his point across.  It went like this:  Dear Grammy I love you.  There was no complimentary closing, as Davey informed me that he’d written enough and was tired.   Those five words took up three sheets of paper.

and Pop
and Pop

At that point, I didn’t realize how happy he would be about writing.  I always thought he would see it as a chore, something I was forcing him to do, but he’s completely blown my mind.   He genuinely wants to write.  He eagerly asks for it every day.  Last night, as I was kissing him good night, he asked me if he could write a letter to Mimi and Pop after this sleep.  Of course I said “yes”.

I love you
I love you

So, following suit with the other days, Henry went down for a nap and Davey began writing his letter.   He has a few stumbling blocks, mostly with the letters “R” and “Y”,  but he’s quite the pro at the others, namely “D”, “E”, and “M”.  Today’s letter actually included a closing and it was four pages long.

Love Davey
Love Davey

I love his excitement over writing.   I’m glad that he wants to continue doing it and I’m aware that at some point this enthusiasm may change.   I know the days are long gone of slipping notes under desks and swapping them in the hall between classes.   I’m also well aware that everyone these days is in a hurry and taking the time to actually write counters that need for urgency.   For now, my boys will hand write letters.  My boys will learn they need a signature and how to write in cursive.   For now, my boys will at least enjoy something that is “mine”, something I’ve always loved…writing.



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