My husband recently had surgery, so he’s been off work for most of the past month. Now that he’s on the mend, he’s been on a mission to clean the house from one end to the other. It’s hard to believe the amount of stuff we’ve accumulated that we now have to sort through and either get rid of or organize.
Probably the most fascinating things I came across were the cards, letters, and even graded papers from my college and seminary days. I was especially interested in those pieces that had handwritten notes or comments on them. There’s just something about reading a personal note from years ago, written in someone’s own unique handwriting.
Now, I’m not one who buys into handwriting and personality theory; I don’t gain insights into anyone’s character based on the slant of their letters or the way they cross their T’s. However, one note quickly written on a scrap of notepaper gave me an unexpected glimpse into my mother’s personality.
This unassuming piece of paper had a few lines scribbled on it, and I struggled to make out what it said. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be some lines of poetry. You see, I used to write poetry, but my parents thought poetry was a waste of time and discouraged my efforts. Why then was I holding a piece of paper with a few sets of rhyming couplets written in my mother’s hand?
I decided to plug those lines into Google to see if perhaps they had been jotted down from a book. Again to my surprise, they turned out to be lines to an older love song. I’m not sure if it surprised me more to think my mom wrote her own poems or to find that she’d jotted down song lyrics from the radio.
For the longest time, I sat gazing at that scrap of paper, trying to read into the handwriting and see back through the years to understand the woman I never knew. What happened over those decades that turned my mother away from poetry and song lyrics? Did she have dreams she gave up on? Was she maybe not as happy in her married life as we thought she was?
Not surprisingly, there were no answers for me in that scrap of paper, and I reluctantly relinquished it to the trash pile. But it did make me think about how rare it is these days to send handwritten correspondence. Even greeting cards these days are often sent online or just mass-printed at some distant company. Sometimes even the senders’ names are computer-generated.
It makes me somewhat sad to think that future generations will be less likely to find handwritten treasures among their parents’ and grandparents’ collections.