I was introduced to calligraphy by a high school art teacher, wonderful person who didn’t tolerate whiners and expected only the best from you. But as I took her class I learned some important lessons, one I can’t draw to save my life or anyone else’s. Second lesson I learned is that I love color, the brighter, the lighter, the vibrant; the any description is gorgeous to me. The third lesson I learned which has stuck with me for the longest is that I can’t draw but I make some beautiful letters. It’s probably the only part of her class that I excelled in.
After that introduction, I started studying, researching and learning broad edge calligraphy. But this is not when I became enlightened about my mother. It wasn’t for a few years ago when I started learning point pen calligraphy that I came to understand where my mother was coming from when she would try to impart to me all the jewels and gems of her wisdom to me. See my mom was born in the 1930s in a very Victorianesque country that up until recently still held onto what we would have called the old ways. Where handwriting was still held in high esteem and was enforced and taught in school every day.
See growing up my mother encouraged my handwriting excellence, but like most kids I did just enough to get by. Not fully understanding at my young inexperienced age the significance of the need to be disciplined and practice daily to have good handwriting. I always looked at her handwriting with a bit of envy at its rhythmic smoothness and elegance. As I was growing up I didn’t understand the significance of good handwriting other than that the teacher could understand it. But now after years of studying I understand better what my mother tried to teach me. In her time, handwriting denoted education, social status and upbringing. Those with good handwriting were considered well educated, person of good social standing and well mannered. Has that imaged changed today? Do we not still judge a person by their handwriting? These are great questions for another time.
For my mother and those of her generation, handwriting was important, for their sons it meant a means of getting a good job, education, marrying the right person and having a successful family life. For their daughters it was a means to a good education, being able to be a good wife, social secretary for the family and rearing well manner and successful children. Those with good handwriting had mastered discipline not only in handwriting but in studying and hard work to achieve their goals.
Curiosity took over and the question where did my mother inherit this discipline. So I looked further up my family tree toward my grandmother. Did my grandmother impart the same ideals of penmanship to my mom that she tried as a child with me? All I have now of my grandmother are her journals. Notes she jotted down of significant importance, birth of her children, deaths of her children, baptisms and other things. But while reading these journals I see another beautiful elegant hand that used a fine point fountain pen with a flexible nib. I see the familiar shading and ovals that have become part of what I call my art now a day. But for my grandmother it was just part of her life, done effortlessly a wonderful example of gentle feminine script by an ordinary but elegant lady.
So in exploring calligraphy and its history I have come to understand my mother and grew closer to my grandmother who died when I was too young to ask the important life questions. Instead the lessons she taught my mother were taught to me. The lessons of discipline and practice coupled with hard work you can achieve good handwriting and thus success in life. After having my children and gaining some life experience I know understand the significance of their lessons. Why to my mother penmanship was important and the discipline needed to have good penmanship.
Sadness is that as my mother has gotten older her handwriting has deteriorated due to age and arthritis. But just like my grandmother, among her papers I will be able to still see the elegance of her handwriting and remember the lessons she tried to teach me. That I now try to teach to my children that at times seem to be in vane but I hope that as they gain life experience and mature they will see the same significance that I have in these lessons.