An attempt to make sense of things in a random universe, one Friday at a time.

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Location: Philippines

Leaving my footsteps for you to find and follow, my love.

11 December 2006

Relearning, rewriting

Before I started first grade my mother taught me penmanship. She would call me every afternoon from my games and make me sit on my small, low desk to practice my loops and my hooks and my circles and my stick lines on specially-lined paper with a set of Palmer templates and a scary-looking copy-book for about two hours, while she sat to my right holding a wooden ruler, ready to swat my hand whenever my grip on the pencil slackened or whenever the slant of my script starts to look inconsistent. I abhorred those penmanship lessons. My hands got crampy, my k’s looked like tiny bunches of grapes, and I could never get my g’s right. I always got swatted at the upper case Q, which is supposed to look somewhat like the number 2, but in my small awkward hand always ended up looking like an ineptly drawn number 8. Indeed, there were issues, as can be expected when one teaches the Palmer script to a six year-old. My lines were crooked and the spacing between letters was inconsistent, but when I entered first grade, my teacher praised me for having the best cursive in class.

Of course I had the best cursive in class. No one else had my mother to harass them into practicing their penmanship for practically the whole summer. After my teacher's praise I was sincerely grateful to my mother for giving me the gift of good penmanship, but being the emotionally klutzy six year-old that I was, and still a little bit miffed at my mother for making me miss my summer, I decided to forget my manners and not say thank you.

As I progressed through grade school, I experimented with different handwriting styles. In my journals, I would use squarish print, awkward italics, tiny circular cursive which had the lower-case l looking exactly the same as the lower-case e, and for a time I even wrote in a series of codes that I devised myself -- but was never really able to decode -- which made me write in symbols rather than actual letters. I tried some of those lettering styles that were popular in the eighties: the marshmallow letters, the print that tried to look like it was made by a typewriter, the normal print that had all the closed lines shaded in black that made it so hard to re-read, and a cursive style that doubled all the curliques at the end of every upstroke. I even tried to become left-handed. It got so that I did not have a distinctive writing style anymore, and sometimes I come upon my own notes and not realize that I wrote those lines.

But I was a heavy writer. I wrote everything down in notebooks, using any kind of handwriting style that I fancied at the moment with a Number 2 Mongol pencil, which was all I was ever allowed to use until the fifth grade. I wrote down song lyrics, classmates' names, the full names of all my thirty-six cousins from my father's side, a list of names that I would have liked for myself, the names of all the Care Bears in Care-A-Lot, an inventory of my Barbie Dolls' clothes, and a play about a brat pack on BMX bicycles. High school was the worst. Even my teachers complained about the illegibility of my scrawl.

I lost all of my notebooks sometime during our transfers from house to house and from city to city and from school to school, which is a pity, as I would have loved to flip through them once more and see how I wrote my way to where I am now.

Somehow, through the years, I have developed a far simpler script. From the fat, squarish, clownish-looking and highly stylized handwriting I have devised for myself, my hand slowly began to loop its letters together in a string. It had then had evened itself out to a fairly consistent scribble in college, but experienced a slight setback upon the advent of the personal computer in schools and at home, and upon my renewed love affair with the manual typewriter. But looking through my journals from two years ago, when I started writing my entries in long hand once more, I noticed how simpler my handwriting began to look, and how predictable, and how much more easier to read. Sometimes the slant and spacing would vary according to the mood I'm in at the time of writing, but mostly I write in large loops at a 45 degree slant to the rule. When I began writing with fountain pens, my handwriting improved noticeably, as most of the energy I used to need to bear down on a Number 2 Mongol pencil is now being channeled to the proper circular movement of the wrist. My current hand is hardly the Palmer script -- I still can't get the Palmer upper-case Q right, and to make all the loops look mechanically equal and consistent is impossible for me now -- but it's fast, convenient, easy to read, and looks fairly pleasing.

It's a little ironic, though, because my mother has really bad handwriting, and was never able to improve it. But nevertheless, bad as her own penmanship was, I learned the basics of proper penmanship from my mother, had invented my own, and had unconsciously -- and perhaps all to predictably -- gone back to the basics as I grew older. And as I return to the handwriting I was taught when I was six, I can now declare the words I never had the good manners to say when I was six, this time on paper, using my Pelikan M205 demonstrator fountain pen with a medium nib and the Parker Penman ink in Emerald:


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