The letter was illuminating. It is rare now to receive a hand-written letter from my children (or even typed, from anyone, for that matter). Like all those before me, I've saved all important family letters. So when my youngest daughter's letter arrived in the mail, I studied the handwriting. I wasn't sure who it was from until I saw the return address on the back of the envelope. It isn't a standard occurence to have handwritten correspondence. No one is minding the p's and q's anymore.
Could this be a gap in the self? Archivally? I am concerned. I have my grandmother's letters she wrote home from college. Her angst over being so far away from home is tangible. Her letters, and those of my mother and other ancestors, offer glimpses into my own past. Handwriting was a window to the self.
Research shows that when children are taught how to write well, they learn how to express themselves. Handwriting is the step along this process and might be considered now an old-fashioned relic. One of my children was taught that cursive was not important -- that everything would be done on a computer. I hit the roof on that one. I knew better. The SAT in 2005 added a written portion to the test. An article this week in Newsweek, The Handwriting on the Wall, notes that in 1904 children were taught to practice handwriting 45 minutes a day. By the 1980s the time was down to 15 minutes. Now it is just ten and most primary school teachers spend less than an hour per week on handwriting and only 12% have been taught how to teach handwriting. But it is a sign of the times that colleges for the most part just consider the verbal and math scores as they did before 2005 and separate out the writing part. The "number" is still the old two-combined one. Some schools don't even look at the written part because it is subjective. We have just been through the application process with two children. For example, Wake Forest, listed in the new Princeton Review, shows the 75th percentile of the incoming Freshman class as having SAT scores of 1430. That's the old one/two number.
My college daughter (the one whose preference is to text me), in her letter, wondered about the birds she was hearing and the names of the trees she was walking under on campus. I don't think this would come up in regular conversation. What a snippet of thinking this was. At least for me. A glimpse into the process of her living, the pattern of her thoughts.
I wouldn't have written about this had I not been so intrigued by Jennifer's post this week, in her own handwriting, written in letter form. Like most in my generation, her writing has a mix of cursive and printing. We don't see into each other online through keystrokes.
The treasured letter from my daughter? It went into the
trash keepsake file. One of my first posts was on how Letters Mingle Souls.
illumination: c. 1220 Manuscript in the Badische Landesbibliothek, Karlsruhe, Germany -Detail from Cod. Bruchsal 1, Bl. 68r