“Handwriting is a spiritual designing, even though it appears by means of a material instrument.”― Euclid
Today, I’d like to discuss something near and dear to me…handwriting. No, I’m not going to be debating whether or not today’s students need to know cursive. I’m not going to even discuss what kind of handwriting is “good” or “bad,” or make any judgments regarding the state of English grammar today. Rather, I’d like to take a moment to step back and reflect on the all-important handwritten note. Not just the classic thank you note, which is most certainly valuable; but any handwritten correspondence. You see, I believe that by taking the time to write a note to someone, whether it’s for a specific purpose or just because we care, is one of the most meaningful things we can do. And right now, when so many of us can’t be with the ones we love, a handwritten note could be just what we need.
When my grandfather Charlie passed away, we all felt his absence dearly. He was tall, with a semi-circle of gray-white hair encircling the outer edges of his head, and a shiny freckled spot in the center. His deep laugh would ring through the house, reminding us all that we were in the presence of someone special. Grandpa Charlie loved playing the trombone, sitting in his recliner watching TV, and gardening. For me, he was a perfect example of how to be a wonderful person. Even as I write this, I am tearfully remembering his joyful attitude in the face of many different life experiences.
Pretty soon after he died, my grandmother, Betty, decided to relocate to Greenville. During the move, of course, there were many things of Charlie’s that we packed up. Even though he was gone, we realized we still had one thing that was everywhere to remind us of him: his handwriting. He was a landscape architect for the City of Atlanta Parks and Recreation department when he retired, so Charlie’s handwriting is very distinct. It is tall, straight, and exact, yet it has a playfulness about it, just like he did. We found Grandpa Charlie’s handwriting on file folders, paperwork, the back of old photographs, even on the inside covers of books. It’s literally everywhere.
My sweet Grandpa Charlie died in 2005, and I still sometimes catch his handwriting out of the corner of my eye as I walk through my parents house – maybe it’s on the label on a box of old coins (he loved to give us commemorative coins every year), or on the old landscape design plans we still have. I’ve even got a recipe for barbecue sauce written in his “messy” handwriting (which is still pretty neat, in my opinion!). Side note: I also found a recipe for “Insecticide” that I think was written by my Grandma Betty, and includes such ingredients as “chew tobacco” and “2 caps full mouth wash.” I’m sure it was effective, but what in the world?!
Wherever I see his handwriting, I am reminded of my Grandpa Charlie and how much I still miss him. His handwriting reminds me of cool fall days spent sitting on the screened porch, of picking green beans from the garden, and sneaking into the hot, humid greenhouse to peek at the mysterious plants growing there. It reminds me of sleeping on the floor in Charlie’s office, with his landscape architecture tools all around me, all neat and organized.
His handwriting takes me right back to the creaky wooden breakfast table in my grandparents’ kitchen in Stone Mountain, Georgia, sitting on my Grandma Betty’s lap while coffee brewed and filled the kitchen with the smell of the morning. I smell the cozy stone fireplace from chilly winter nights when we would visit them, and feel the soft blankets that I would curl up in. It’s pretty amazing how many things I remember, I feel, see, touch, or smell when I see just a few letters written by my grandpa. He probably never thought it would mean so much to me. He was just living his life, taking care of my grandmother and their home, keeping things organized and in order. Being Charlie.
In the same way that I connect my memories of my grandfather with his handwriting, a handwritten note can also provide valuable connection and meaning for the people we care about. Especially right now, when many of us are feeling isolated and separated from family, handwriting can be a way to send a little bit of yourself to your family and friends from afar. I personally have a large family that lives on both coasts, and everywhere in between! I am always thinking about them, whether they are experiencing a hurricane in Texas, fires in California, or a freezing cold winter in Indianapolis. Heck, even if it’s just a regular Tuesday afternoon. I wish I could see them more often, but that’s just not possible, even when times are “normal.”
Stationery and greeting cards were one of the first products I sought out when I began researching which products I wanted for Bleckley House Gifts. I wanted to make sure that it was easy for you to find the right card for the right occasion, or just for anytime. Many of the cards in the shop are blank inside. This is intentional. I felt that you needed more space for the special messages you want to express to your loved ones, rather than clever one-liners (although there are some pretty clever one-liners on the front of the cards, too!).
Although I am not necessarily a handwritten note connoisseur, I have written a few here and there, especially in moments where I felt very strongly that a note was needed. My parents have found several dramatic apology letters from my childhood, explaining why I hit my brother, or what I what I was so upset about. You know, really important stuff.
I have also written thank you notes, sympathy notes, love notes and my favorite – what I call “just because” notes. These are notes when I’m just sitting around and I remember that I haven’t spoken to a friend in a while. Then, I write them a note. Usually, I explain how much I miss them, and go on to draw a picture for them. I love to imagine my friends’ faces, full of happiness and puzzlement as they read this stream-of-consciousness chicken-scratch, complete with stick figure illustrations.
I know that writing a note doesn’t necessarily come naturally for those of us that have grown up in the time of text messages and social media posts (and, arguably, for anyone of any age living in today’s modern ways), so let me give you some ideas:
- The classic thank you note
- A special memory you have of that person
- A trip you took together
- What you miss most about them
- Things you plan to do together when you can finally see them again
- An interesting thing that happened to you that day, or recently
- A funny story
- A drawing, or just a coloring page from an adult coloring book (or any coloring book, really, will do!)
- Write a poem (might I recommend a good old acrostic poem with their name?)
- Your three favorite things right now
- Answer the question: What is good in your life right now?
- Just tell them how much you care, and let them know you’re there for them, from afar
- Send them a little origami creature tucked inside a greeting card (just make sure it’s lightweight, so you don’t have to pay lots of postage!)
Mostly, I hope you have fun with your handwritten letters. Stay true to yourself, and your intentions will show through. Don’t worry so much about being messy, or saying the wrong thing, or what your friend or family member will think. Just do your best, be creative, and enjoy it!
Wishing you all the best!
Is a greeting card not enough? Want to send a little something more?