Mount St. Joseph University

The Lost Art of Handwriting

Dateline: student newspaper

File Under: gifts, handwriting, holiday

As we approach the Holiday Season much time will be spent worrying about the perfect recipe, the perfect gift, and the perfect card. Last year I received the perfect gift from my family who had passed on. In the bottom of a drawer I found an envelope of handwritten letters dating back to 1929. There were letters from my favorite Great Aunt Lena to her cousin Adele. Some were from my grandfather to my grandmother dating back to WW2. One letter dated 1958 was from my grandmother telling of her joy and love for her only son, my father. I instantly recognized my grandmother’s penmanship from all of the Birthday cards and Christmas cards through the years.

It brought me to the realization that handwriting is a lost art.

One’s handwriting used to be as much of their identity as their name. As a young girl I would dot my I’s with hearts and stars. Practicing making my loops “fancy” and big was a favorite pastime. Over and over I would write my name so when I became famous I would have a distinctively beautiful autograph. Many hours of my youth were spent with my girlfriends deciphering what it meant if your loops were narrow or wide.

As I read the handwritten letters from my loved ones who passed on many years ago, I was comforted by the gift of their penmanship. It touched my heart to see my grandma’s shaky script. I could visualize her sitting at the table writing out her Christmas cards, making sure she matched the color of her ink to the cards. There was my beautiful Aunt Lena who would sign her name with a huge, fancy “L” and spray the cards with perfume. There were letters from my cousin Tony asking the family to send him supplies. He was a 19 year- old soldier in France during WW2. It seemed odd to read of him asking for soap, matches, anything from home.

At one time handwriting was so descriptive of a personality. It could be harsh or soft, beautiful or sloppy. A handwritten letter is a picture of our words, our thoughts and sometimes of a specific era.

Perhaps this Holiday Season I will send my loved ones handwritten cards, specific to this time in my life. Many years from now my grandson will look at them and talk about his “Mimi” and her “ancient” form of communication called penmanship.