By Mary Ellen Shaw
For most of us writing began when we learned to print our names. Occasionally, letters of the alphabet got printed backwards in the process but eventually we got it right.
School classrooms had alphabet charts on the wall facing the students. Printed letters were in one row with the matching cursive letters directly above them. That arrangement helped as we learned to make the transition. The cursive method used at Christ the King School in the 50s was called the “Palmer Method.” Letters were formed using rhythmic motions without your pen being raised off the paper.
So what were some of the reasons for taking “pen in hand” back in the day? In elementary school many students had pen pals. Mine was from Ireland and we wrote about our schools, our family and friends and what we liked to do for fun. Since there were no texts or emails the highlight of our day was to go home and find a piece of mail addressed to us from our pen pal.
For young girls writing in a diary was a daily event. I remember getting one for Christmas with a pink vinyl cover. There was a picture on the front of a teenage girl talking on her landline phone. She wore a full skirt with a poodle on it. We wrote in our diaries every day telling what we did, who our boyfriend was and at times we complained about rules we had to follow. The diaries came with a key and what young girl doesn’t want privacy as she navigates the growing years?
Writing moved to another level when we got into high school and had to take notes in class. That was just a precursor to sitting in college classes and having more extensive and complicated notes to take. Fortunately, Mount St. Joseph Academy prepared us by offering a class for college bound students. We learned shorthand symbols for the most common words. That proved to be extremely helpful when taking notes.
Early in the summer before we entered college we were sent the name and address of our future roommate. It was suggested that we drop a note to that person and introduce ourselves and share some of our interests. That way we wouldn’t be strangers when we met. I knew my roommate and I were nothing alike when I read that she had just won a beauty contest and was headed to Bermuda. The two of us managed to survive one year together since the nuns at Trinity College wouldn’t let students make a change. To quote the dean, “It builds character!”
From childhood into my adult years a hand written thank-you note is something I have always sent. For me taking the time to do that shows your appreciation much more than sending a text or email. Plus, it’s fun to shop for a pretty note card to write on.
Hand written recipe cards are a wonderful way to connect the item you are cooking or baking to the person who shared their recipe with you. I have two recipe books full of cards that were given to me over the years by family and friends. Most of them have a line that says, “From the Kitchen of…” I am reminded of that person every time I use their recipe. Instructions printed off the computer will never have that personal touch. It’s been ages since anyone gave me a recipe card and I miss it!
I was pleasantly surprised when I read an article stating that one way to brighten someone’s day during the ongoing pandemic is to send them a handwritten note. I was on the receiving end of one a few months ago from a woman I have only come in contact with a few times. She wanted to tell me that she enjoyed my columns, especially the one about books. Apparently reading has been a source of delight for both of us from our childhood days to the present. Thank you, Patty, for brightening my day!
So how about “taking pen in hand” and dropping a note to someone? It will surely brighten their day!