Thanks to an FYI from friend Heidi Osborn, I am celebrating National Handwriting Day today. Good handwriting is not as important as it used to be, it seems. In my school days, we received a grade on our report cards in penmanship. Time was set apart each day for students to practice cursive handwriting from large note books called “The Palmer Method of Handwriting,”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palmer_Method Those with good handwriting received plenty of praise from teachers, and “Good Penmanship” awards, and were envied and admired by those of us who did not develop that skill.
There were other marks of honor to look forward to in penmanship besides praise from teachers and “Certificate of Merit” awards. There was the longed for moment when your teacher said, “You may now use a ballpoint pen to write your homework assignments,” and in eighth grade we finally received permission to use a fountain pen. Yes, when you made it to fountain pen level, you had arrived.
Practicing handwriting had a dangerous side to it, also. My sister-in-law JoAnne Messmer King has beautiful penamnship, and told me this story of the day she practiced writing cursive at home as a little girl. Her father had come back from a trip to town, and put his purchases on the living room coffee table. JoAnne was home and in the living room just then. She looked through all the items on the table. A small, rectangular box caught her attention, and she opened it to find a stack of brand new checks from the bank. As she went to find a ballpoint pen, JoAnne heard a knock at the front door, and recognized one of her father’s friends. Soon the two men sat companionably in the living room visiting and drinking beer. JoAnne stayed in the living room, too, and practiced her penmanship by filling in all the spaces on the beautiful, new checks. It wasn’t until some time later that JoAnne’s father realized what type of paper his talented daughter had been using to practiice her cursive handwriting. It doen’t take much imagination to know how this story ended, but JoAnne said she did not get a “Certificate of Merit” award for her efforts.
Today, I celebrated National Handwriting Day by putting some handwritten letters and postcards in the mail, with an acknolwedgement of the day in those missives. Next year, I plan to do the same thing, but I am going to write my letters with a fountain pen. That is, if I can find one. They still make fountain pens, don’t they?