Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My Friends’ Handwriting

Deb: Recently a friend posted on Facebook an appeal for people to send Christmas cards online instead of through the mail. I get it, I do. But there are more factors that go into the sending and receiving of cards than just the environmental ones.

The sending and receiving of Christmas cards—or greeting cards period, for that matter—is a tradition going way back in time.

The first commercial Christmas cards were commissioned by Sir Henry Cole, in London in 1843. 

They became so popular that it was unthinkable in certain society not to send cards. After a period and certainly when I was a child, sending Christmas cards was something you simply did, no questions asked. I used to love the card garlands my parents would make and I loved to flip up their festive covers to expose the signature underneath.

Over the years I have adored both sending and getting Christmas cards from loved ones near and far. When the season is over, I cut the cards up and use them the next year as tags for the gifts. We also use the same gift bags in our family year after year. This year I am buying yards of soft tulle-like fabric that can be used as the stuffing of the bags instead of tissue and reused every year. These things are my tiny efforts to mix the traditions with the realities of this world. Small, but something. And yet the pressure to end this tradition mounts every year.

Fewer and fewer of our friends send Christmas cards and I understand the reasons—footprint, time, expense. Still I miss these cards. It’s not even the cards I miss so much, but the signatures.  What I really love about getting cards is seeing our friends’ handwriting. It is so comforting to open up a card and just by the valediction know exactly who sent it.

And when I was doing our cards last night, I was thinking about the relationship between John Hancock and our son’s generation. It dawned on me that this generation has no connection to handwriting. They could not begin to recognize a friend’s cursive scroll and feel warmed by it. They won’t look at a note and recognize it as Bill or Megan’s handwriting. Because they don’t. Write, that is. With pen or pencil. They simply don’t write. And they don’t care. Why would they? They don’t want for what they never had.

Me? I will miss seeing our loved ones dotted i’s and crossed t’s on our Christmas cards. I will miss seeing the flourish that Kathy gives to her “L’s” and the looped curve to the “C” that identifies Christopher’s note. I love my friends’ handwriting. It is so personal. It’s who they are; it’s part of them.

So at some point, probably next year, we will give up the sending of cards and do them online. We will send by mail to the aunts and uncles and friends who are not online and that will cut down the cards by ninety percent. But it’s not the same. At least for me. You can send me the most beautiful e-card in the world and I may even play it over and over. But it won’t have your personality scrolled across the bottom. It will simply say, “Love, Doug, Janet, Tyler and Grace”. I’ll be glad you sent it. But I will miss the you in it.

What are you going to do? The handwriting is on the Facebook Wall.

Barbara: I never thought about looking at people’s handwriting and seeing it as an intimate extension of who they are. Of course it is! And I must have noticed it, but I’ve never thought of it. And now that you mention it, it is a special communion. It is distinctly personal, revealing, sacred.

All this said, I often think of my own writing as the side of me I’d rather hide, like ugly toes or excessive sweat. My handwriting is atrocious. It is hurried and sloppy and barely legible—even to me. And what’s more, it is often physically painful for me. When I was young, I used to develop these hard little balls under the skin near my wrist from the “exertion” of writing. The top knuckle of my middle finger veers right thanks to the pressure I put on it as a rabid teenaged writer. Computers have saved me from confusion (others’ and my own), have saved me time, have cleaned me up for the world, like a mom slicking back her kid’s unruly hair while wiping the grime from their cheek. I was getting seduced into thinking this was a better me I was showing to the world. And yet, to your point, Deb, it’s not the real, unadulterated me. 

My other weakness is in the whole sending of mail. I am terrible here too. I have long ago accepted I would rarely, if ever, send anything by mail. Legions of letters, packages, and warrantees have languished on my hall table to slowly gather dust and eventually be tossed.

I admire you and your ilk. I have treasured every card you have ever sent me and admired every stroke of your thoughtful pen. I love getting real mail. I love getting real cards. I will miss the ritual when it passes.


  1. I am a real Christmas card sender. I think it is a lovely tradition that reflects a slower , gentler time and I don't want to lose it. The act of doing them also makes me slow down, perhaps listen to some Christmas music and more than that, it makes me think about each person I am sending them to. I find that I think back over the year and it's various events that affected my friends life. I also like to think, that like me, they love to receive a little something in the mail. Something that assures them they were being thought of and wished well.

    I have done it since I was a little girl, and it has only grown. I love every part of it....picking the cards, picking the "right pen", Christmas stamps, and that special little message that perhaps I wouldn't have found the time for. The acknowledgement that they are thought of fondly during this season and the year to come.

  2. Deb- you really made me think about the beautiful handwriting of my loved ones.... And strangely.. i remember exactly how they would write, which of their letters looked awesome.. And because you pointed it out... I realized I do love to just look at handwriting.... even when i am.. i dunno looking at a painting... i love to take a peek at the signature of the artist..a peek i guess i analyze the signature more than the painting :D.... and that is true... It does give a really personal touch to cards... i love receiving cards where people write their feelings down... rather than some catchy poem... even if it just says "HAVE A WONDERFUL DAY" it makes my day !!!! and My gosh you have the most beautiful Handwriting... it is so amazing !!!!!!

    Barb- I know whatcha saying.... i describe my handwriting the exact same way !!!! I write like I have to run somewhere urgently..... and its really "readable" in the beginning .... then it looks like i am threatening someone my own new language !!!! :D

  3. Mary-Jo, so admire this!! I figured you be one of the senders.

    Shalaka, you expressed my thoughts in perfect words -- if not perfect handwriting!! I love that artists' signatures speak to you. That's so beautiful.

  4. At my house we are kind of combining the handwriting and the technology. My mom has me print out everyone’s address on sticker labels. Then we just peel off and put the stickers on the outside of the envelopes! It save many hours of writing! It is also easier because I save the list in my computer every year, so we just make any necessary changes and print. We sign our names on the inside with a pen still. : ) It works for us and ensures the address is legible for the post man.
    -Kelly from NJ-

  5. I am a sender of cards, Christmas or otherwise and its that personal connection and the knowledge that the recipient will know I thought of them that keeps me writing mounds of them every year. I've said this before but a card is like recieving a tangible thought, a moments pause you can hold in your hand and know that someone thought of you.

    I can so see you in your handwriting Deb, bright, bold and just a little loopy! Barb I'll go with you I hate my handwriting, and my signature phew should have been a doctor based on that scrawl.

    Kelly I've been meaning to do address labels every year for the past ten or so but I think I've only done it once. Those lovely hand cramps are the only downfall to hordes of cards.

  6. Barb first of all, I had no idea you struggled with the writing. Of course it makes it tough. The computer keyboard was made for you baby!!! Because I write backhand, I was the last one in my grade four class to graduate from pencil to pen. Wow Mary-Jo, you've made me realize how much I am loath to give it up. Maybe I should cut enviro-corners in other ways and keep my olde card tradition! Shalaka I am so glad this evoked memories for you of loved ones handwriting. Don't feel badly about your handwriting. When he was a little boy, the boy's handwriting was so awful that we were sure he was going to be a doctor! :-)
    That boy was born in the right time. The artist's signature is a wonderful image. I did not think of that Shalaka.

  7. Kelly that is exactly how we do it. Sticky labels on the outside, written message on the inside. I also love to stamp so I stamp a little image on the outside of the card to make it extra festive. Erin you too are convincing me to stick with the card thing. My handwriting is actually prettier than that signature if I do say so, but I was using the wand on my ipad and it was not perfect. Ahh well.

  8. Love,love, love the tradition of Christmas cards...Will truly hate to see it fade away completely. (Visions of me dragging my P.C. with Deb's ecard as screensaver to my holiday mantel.)
    As for handwriting, my kids love nothing more than to gently mock me for my childhood Palmer Penmanship Champion status...They have no way of knowing that such a title had real heft back in the day...As a matter of fact, when my son was graduating from Grade 8, I learned that he actually was unable to form cursive letters. He had terrible printing throughout grade school and he never even needed to learn cursive as by then the keyboard was beginning to rule. The only letters he can link together are those he uses to form his version of a signature. For a mom who's cursive still elicits compliments, I might see this as a tragedy but choose instead to marvel at the speed at which his fingers fire across the keyboard. Change being the only constant and all...

  9. Deb Trust me... my mom was sure i was gonna be a doctor :D... coz i had a bad handwriting back in school too...and worse it changed every year !! lolz :D.. i just read your comment to Erin the "wand on my ipad" thing... and it is so funny that you mentioned that... i was gonna write something really similar...i paint on Photoshop so i use a pen and paint... but in case my handwriting improved when i started using my pen to sign on my artwork....Ya know... coz if it didnt turn out right... i would just "undo" it without making a mess :D
    I have this weird habit.... whenever i see any handwriting and i sometimes like the way people curve the letters ....everyone have their own way of fashioning the curve !!! i tend to pick it up or.. "steal it" to improve my handwriting..... I am telling you now ... i loved the way you write the 'D'..... i think I AM GONNA STEAL THAT :D

    Well I love reading everything you guys have written about Christmas...I live in India... and i am a Hindu.... Christmas is celebrated here but not on a large scale.. because of the mixture of different religions and different people...Reading your stories is the closest ive felt to it!! Coz its great to hear from someone who has been celebrating it in their house for life !!!! Its awesome !
    And Deb ..I LOVE YOU SO MUCH for this post !!! You made me remember a trait that i had that i had completely forgotten..... analyzing handwritings.... well like you said.... we cant really see much handwriting now......I guess i am gonna flip through the pages of the books back from school....even though i know i wouldnt understand the handwriting... It will bring back "cute" memories !

  10. Beautifully said Annette! And I can back you up on said handwriting skills. As for your son...exactly the same as the boy's handwriting. And what I marvel about is the fact that boy was trained to type in a traditional manner and yet his brain said "nope...doing it with two fingers I am!" And still, he flies across that keyboard. Damn it all Annette I think it was a fine award you received. Maybe there is even a place for it on the Christmas mantle?

  11. Best handwriting ever, Deb! :D

    I recently wrote some Christmas cards for some absolutely fantastic people that I work with and I found myself enjoying the process of writing them more than seeing their faces when they open them!

    I also love that these posts have been about Christmas, which I also love a lot! I seriously wish it was Christmas all the time!!!!!!! :D

  12. I don't do cards and most of the ones I do get our photo cards with the message and signature already printed-very few signatures. I put all of the photo ones in my photo basket (very large) that sits by my couch where everyone can pick up a pile and see how my life as gone. I took all my photos out of albums that no one looked at and placed the ones I wanted into a big and I mean big wicker basket and placed it in my living room next to my couch and now it is looked at more and more than ever before. I can go back to my high school photos if i dig really deep.

  13. I have been hit and miss with the cards. Bit I remember enjoying all the different cards we got during the holidays. This year, I started sending them out again. I like how Mary-Jo put it, "it reflects a slower, gentler time". I want that reminder in my life.

  14. I love sending Christmas cards, real ones. I also have a lot of birthday cards going out this time of year as well. I am not a fan of my own handwriting, either. It is not terrible, but I have two writing styles: one when I am writing something in a card or an actual, snail mail letter and another writing style when I'm taking notes in class or doing research. The former looks much better than the latter. When I take notes, I sometimes cannot read what I wrote and I use a type of shorthand that no one, including me, can figure out! I take a lot of notes, so I have to write quickly which results in a "what the heck does that say?" style of writing. :)

    I think that my generation (the same as your son's I believe, Deb) does tend to prefer technology and electronic crap, but I am not one of them. I am not tech savvy at all! When I was on elementary school, they taught us cursive, then a few grades later they taugt us how to type on a computer the "right" way (not two fingers, apparently). Of course, I decided to type in my own way, which is use the finger closes to the right letter and go with it! I was pretty fast then and I am still somewhat fast since I have to type papers and things on a regular basis.

    I also sometimes still "steal" other people's writing styles a bit. Usually a certain letter will fascinate me and I will have to try it out. But I always go back to my style because that's me, it belongs to me alone.
    I can identify the handwriting of my family and friends. They know that I am not big on the tech stuff, so they make sure that I get a real, handwritten card.

    This post reminded me of a debate that I and a few other people had not too long ago about real books versus those book reader devices (names escape me at the moment). I have no interest in those things, but apparently a lot of people do. I like the feel of an actual book in my hands, the, I know this may sound a little crazy, smell of a book. I take notes in the margins sometimes and I just feel like it would not be as personal if I used a reading device thingy. I know these things may save space (my house is covered with books everywhere) but I just don't think that this particular type of technology is for me. Oh well...

  15. *blinks* Omigosh, Deb! Your handwriting is so YOU!!! It absolutely matches you!!! lolololol That is so cool!

  16. What a treat to see your handwriting. I do believe it is an expression of our deepest character ... it tells us something about you. Maybe even everything.

  17. Love your handwriting. I would be tickled to get a Christmas card from your bunch! ^__^

    One thing I have been self-conscious about is my handwriting. I still hate it. I don't know if it's because I'm a lefty or what. Just never have liked it. I do like my signature though; people have often told me it looks like a physician's. hahahaha

    I do love getting Christmas cards; my mom has a holder that hangs up in our dining room. When I'm at home, I just look at the colorful array of cards from friends and relatives. Some of them send pictures, some send letters too, but some just...send a card. :] For me, Christmas cards are just a part of Christmas. :D

  18. Kelly, I'm a lefty too and I think that it does have something to do with our writing skills. If you think about it,left-handed people have to learn to write in a way where we sort of drag our hand across what we just wrote will right-handed people can see their writing as they write. I was always a little self-conscious about my writing as well because of this. Oh well...Left-handed people are the best though! (i'm not bias at all! ;)

  19. Don't do it, Deb!! Don't give up the cards! Like you, I so enjoy the whole experience around sending cards, and I'm not letting it go. I always make sure that mine are in the mail by December 1st at the latest. It's a point of pride for me that mine is the first card my friends and family receive. My cousin's wife beats me most years, but this year I won! I'm a techno geek from way back, but this is one tradition that is sacred to me. Stay strong, my friend! - Anne

  20. OH, I LOVE sending cards...

    Does anyone want one? I send them everywhere...I don't mind the extra time and money! :)

    Though I do like the technical progress, I like to write letters, stories, stuff down.

    I also love receiving real mail. That's always sooo exciting!

    I don't really like my handwriting, because it doesn't look pretty, but I found it always interesting to see other people's handwritings. It's something very personal, unique and full of life; something a computer can never achieve.

    I adore people with a nice handwriting. And yours is amazing, Deb! Love it!

    We hang our christmas cards up, and everybody can see them, when they enter the house.

    That's my handwriting:

  21. @Steph
    I love the feeling of a real book in my hands. Turning the pages, smelling the's magic! :) Don't like ebooks.

    BTW, I always wanted to be left-handed, and even practiced to write with my left hand...didn't work out quite that well. ;)

  22. *looks at hand* pen smears. typical. Power to the lefties, Steph!

    What's weird is Holly is right handed...

  23. Dear god, Kate, I hope you're not right about it being our "everything" (although I fear you speak the truth!). Amazing how many of you are lefties. My husband is one too -- and he has very distinctive handwriting (although he does complain about that moving the hand over the writing thing). Becki! Thanks for sharing your writing. I like it --very straightforward and sincere. Like you.

    If that's my Anne (points up -- notice how territorial I am!) then I kept meaning to thank you/her for being the first card on my shelf!

  24. Not to worry, Barb ... we all know that some of the most wonderful people have the worst handwriting! Have you ever had professional handwriting analysis done? It's fascinating stuff. But they do take into account that it might be messy because it's hurried.

  25. I hadn't thought so much about the handwriting, but the decrease in cards has been a particular downside to the way we now communicate. We made the decision a couple of years ago to stop sending cards and it still bothers me.

    After reading this, I realize that there was a time when I could recognize the handwriting of my mothers and aunts and grandmothers. They all had beautiful script.

  26. I'm begining to worry how my youngest's handwriting is going to turn out! a)she's a lefty b)apparently our school division is not going to teach cursive anymore c)She still has NO idea how to read it and d)She hasn't even seen cursive more than a handful of times.

    Also I may be such a messy writer because I should have been a lefty, my school was still archaic with it and I wasn't allowed to write with my left. Although now I'm mostly ambidextrous(sp?) either hand is awful!

  27. Holly I am your sister regards ALL THINGS CHRISTMAS!
    Madge I adore your basket of pix. Stealing that one! Shawn it's true, a slower gentler time..Sigh.
    Steph you're an old time gal at heart in a new time world. That is lovely. You are your own person.

  28. Rigel I am glad you loved my handwriting but it is not as neat as mine is. The wand for my ipad was erratic at best. But thanks. Wow! Didn't I blog once on NOT being able to take a compliment???

  29. Kate, you're right...maybe even everything.
    Kelly I love that you go through the family cards and appreciate them. Kelly and Steph, shout out to the lefties. My husband is a lefty and the boy is kinda a lefty.

  30. Anne you and the others have convinced me. I was weak, I buckled but I have seen the error of my ways. I will NOT give up the cards!

  31. Becki I love that you practiced with your left hand!!! I always wanted to be left handed because it was different. I can so relate.

  32. Lisa I respect your reasons for stopping. I have been going down that same path I have been reminded that the old ways are lovely to keep alive if you can. But I get the idea of stopping it too. I don't think there is a wrong choice. It's whatever resonates within us about anything, right? ERIN-another lefty. I love this!!!!!! Don't worry about her. The boy is bright, loving, artistic, kind...and his writing looks like modern art. So....

  33. Deb, just to point out a tiny bit of irony: We now know what your handwriting looks like, but there are 3 names on that card. The tradition of the ladies writing out all the cards continues, as well. :)

    I haven't sent out Christmas cards, real or simulated, for a few years. I can definitely recognize the handwriting on the ones I receive. Norma, Aunt Fanny (whose name is Mary, go figure), Elaine... And then there's Patty, the all-time winner of the "chicken scratch" award.

    I like my handwriting, but sometimes I get my letters jumbled together. I'll be trying for an 'm' and end up with an 'n' instead. I enjoy signing checks and such, because I write with a small flourish. Call me silly, but I have fun.

    My dad has beautiful handwriting, emphasized with his fountain pen, so he writes with a bigger flourish than I do. How many men have beautiful hand-writing? Whose handwriting does anyone see anymore besides their own autograph?

  34. Dawn it is so true. The ladies carry on most of the traditions. But I cannot slight my husband for it as he is there with the stamps and the licking of the envelopes etc. My Dad also has lovely handwriting. And how lovely that your Dad writes with a fountain pen! Classic!

  35. is offering personalized online Christmas cards for $15 off this December. They’re custom designed for you and you get to pick the music, use *your own signature* & pictures, and customize the look. You can even hand write the whole message if you want. The recipient can print it out if they choose, but if they are the type who throw cards away after they’ve read them, they’ll have one less card in their waste basket.

  36. Thanks for the tip Abigail. Something to keep in mind.

  37. I actually keep my old Christmas cards (some of them), mostly from my best friend when she sends them to my college mailbox. I guess I'm just a sap sometimes :]

    Oh YES. I remember that Colin and Brad are BOTH lefties!!!!!!!!! :DDDD

  38. Kelly I think it's lovely that you keep your best friend's Christmas cards. And yes you're right, both Colin and Brad are lefties!

  39. I keep the important, heartfelt cards too. The ones with meaning and love in them.

    Deb, I think that using cards as tags the following year is a fantastic idea! I had never thought of that. I usually just buy some and attach them or if I'm out of them and don't have time to go to the store to get more (last minute wrapping) then I just write on the package or use a piece of wrapping paper as a tag! Some call it laziness, I call it creativity! :)

    Yeah, and I knew Colin and Brad are lefties too! Like I said, some of the best people are! ;)

  40. My family has never really been organized enough to sent out cards every year, but I do enjoy the little smile receiving a handwritten note from a friend brings to my face. Handwriting truly is a personal expression, especially if you can't be close to the person doing the writing. This post also reminds me of a box of postcards my Aunt has that were sent between members of my family in the nineteen teens, many to mark occasions such as Christmas. Even though I am generations removed and never met any of them, I feel like I get to know them a little bit from their preserved handwriting and mannerisms. It is sad to think that today the messages my Great Grandmother so carefully preserved would be sent as emails and then forgotten.

  41. My son is lefty and one granddaughter is lefty and one grandson had to choose so he chose right to write with and does everything else lefty as in sports. He really is terrific with both hands but his parents made him take a stand with writing and he thought about it and decided to be a right hander for school. Truly ambidextrous.

  42. Deb, I forgot to mention I love your left handed writing. When my son was growing up I bought him left handed everything rulers,scissors, playing cards so he would right straight up and down. It worked and he writes with his letters straight up. Yours looks fancy and very pretty.

  43. Yeah Steph I got the "tag" idea from my sister in law. It is such a lovely tradition and gives the cards a second life. Some cards, you can get three tags out of. I cut them with serrated scissors for the finishing touch. I just do it usually, watching tv on a Snowy January night and then put them in the bin for next Christmas. Lizzard you are so right. What a sad thing to miss your Great Grandmother's handwriting because it was a deleted email. Thanks Madge but it's funny because my parents have perfect handwriting. I mean perfect. Their handwriting looks like the alphabet writing over the teacher's desk. So they were never impressed with mine at all. I love that your grandson is ambidextrous. Few people are. Our son also started out left as a baby, eating with left, grabbing toys with the left. Suddenly in school, he grabbed a pencil with the right which we thought was weird but then he ended up doing sports left and writing right, much like your grandson. It's always fascinating when and how these things happen isn't it?

  44. Barbara
    That's a very nice thing to say. :) I keep that in mind, whenever I write something.

  45. I love sending and receiving all cards - Christmas, notes, thank you's. There is something magicial about sitting down at a desk or in a chair and drafting a note to a loved one. I am an old soul and no matter how many ecards/ evites get sent and received there will always be a book of stamps on my desk ready to go. I agree ladies, and thank you!


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