Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve found ways, mostly foolish, to mark my growth via penmanship. Looking back, I suppose it’s clear that, even in the early years, that pencil was practically growing out of my fat little hand. Always writing, doodling, playing with words, even if it was just sliding the magnetic letters on the fridge around and upside down. My penmanship has never been stable, only on temporary plateaus. And, yet again, it’s on the move.
In grade school, I played with the presentation of my name, even on the heading of my papers in school. Striving for uniqueness and searching for identity from behind my rotund, dented, red, wire spectacle frames in middle school, I twisted my name around until it sounded like something fresh and different and “cool.” Atop my papers, teachers would see “Lin-Duh” and know that I wasn’t trying to be impossible or self-deprecating; I was only trying to distinguish myself as someone of worth and status. I wrote my name with smiley faces, with huge obnoxious dots over the “i,” with all capital letters, or with tails that swirled all over the top of the page. Sometimes my dad still calls me “Lin-Duh”, and the “Duh” trails behind him, through the kitchen, down the hall, around the corner, for years and years until I can barely hear the silent “h” any longer.
Through most of high school I doodled. I played with ink and symbol in margins and white space. I drew the names of boys I said I loved and my best friends that would, of course, be my best friends forever, in big, block fonts. I added color and design, drew people and pictures in with flowery something or others and pasted it all on the fronts and backs and inside outs of my notebooks and binders.
When I began to sign checks, I panicked because my signature was inconsistent and messy. They’d never know if it was me or my identity-stealing bank robber signing Linda A. Sullivan. Or should I only sign L. Sullivan? Some folks I knew signed with letters and lines, like, L scribble, S scribble. Should I do that, too? I practiced on sheets of paper, like girls do when they want to marry a man and they replace hers with his last name, to see how Mrs. Linda whomever would look and sound. Fantasy. Pages and pages of capital L’s, A’s, S’s, trying to find a tilt and size and style that looked on paper like my personality felt.
And even now, as a teacher, I’m finding myself a new font for writing on the marker board with those fat Expo markers, most of which are dry yet sit stealthily on the ledge of the board, mysteriously without ink. The CAPS LOCK seems to be working well. It’s hard to write on the board in a straight line, CAPS or no caps, but the letters seems to stay legible when they’re all capital.
On paper, I’m finding my hand comfortable, again, with a pencil, getting used to changes and mistakes in my lesson plan book. I enjoy the rough feel that resonates in my fingers and wrist when the pencil scrapes unwillingly against the paper, leaving graphite shavings and often, erasure crumbles behind. I feel older as I write in cursive, like I haven’t in years. The pace slows my words, makes me patient and I finish the “s” with dainty curvature before beginning the next word.
My writing takes a new slant, literally, as my penmanship changes with this season and that. This penmanship defines and redefines me.