Teachers made us practice again and again the correct way to loop a p or curve a q. Printing was easier, sure, but it looked like the poor relation of cursive with its exotic swirls and twirls. Cursive possessed the soul of an artist, its flair difficult to achieve, unlike printing which any person able to hold a pencil could accomplish.
In the third grade I remember the despair, well that's a big word for a third grade emotion, perhaps disappointment is better, at receiving a big fat U for my handwriting. U meant unsatisfactory. My best friends, the twins, Lisa and Cheryl Miller both got S for their cursive. Damn them. I'm not sure what was better than satisfactory. Perfection perhaps. All I know is I kept my U hidden from my friends. Actually, I lied. I told the twins I got an S, too. Sorry Lisa and Cheryl.
And as years passed, I achieved that S. Except for me it meant Sloppy. My handwriting was sloppy. It just took too much time to make those careful As and elaborate Ks. I was always in a rush.
I write big and this actually is not as messy as I can write. I have to work hard to make my handwriting legible. In the long ago days we used to write personal letters to one another, that seems now as ancient as carving on stone slabs, I would receive letters from my friends with penmanship that was worthy of framing. Now and then friends would tease me about my the difficulty reading my handwriting, and I would try to improve. I would start the letter out neatly but, alas, it would dissolve into...sloppy.
Here in Arizona there is a push to end cursive handwriting being taught in the schools. I can't imagine not knowing how to write in cursive, even if I am a poor example of the talent. I would feel cheated. Even though I've never excelled at it, I still like writing short personal notes with the flourishes of cursive. Today if I receive that rare note from someone written with cursive, it's like a gift. Who takes the time anymore?
Also, how could one sign their name properly? A signature in cursive shows it's really you.
I cherish the letters and notes written in cursive that I've received through the years. When I read this last one written by my mother who died many years ago, it is like having her here with me. Print wouldn't have the emotional punch. I have saved many birthday cards and letters from family and friends. If I start to forget that person, all I have to do is look at their handwriting. I feel as if I have come home to them again.
If a writer tells you he or she doesn't use a computer, in all likelihood the writing is being done in cursive. There are some writers who still write manuscripts with pen and paper. There's some magic to that. I would do that except I'd never be able to read my own writing. At work we are required to write down a short note on receipts explaining why we had to give a guest something for free. I sometimes have to translate them for the manager. The other night the manager said to me, "you can't even read your own handwriting."
And he was right. I fear as I get older I will get that spindly handwriting that my grandma had. And yet, when I see my grandma's cursive on an old black and white photo, or in her bible, it looks gorgeous to me. Better than any computer print.
Our handwriting is like snowflakes. There are no two alike. And I bet there are even some sloppy snowflakes out there who enjoy dancing from the heavens to the earth the same as the perfect ones.
Here in the great state of NM they've already done away with cursive in the classrooms. It's a shame.
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