I know I can make it!
I’m part of Daily and Weekly Post
This week’s photo challenge dives down into details.
A misty morning after a night’s rain in Umbria.
I got to thinking about penmanship today. Remember that? On rainy days, we used to stay inside and practice our penmanship. Does anyone under the age of 30 even know what this is?
This was a big deal when I was growing up. We got graded on it in elementary school. Teachers in high school terrified us into believing they could see into our souls by the way we wrote.
Your penmanship told buckets about you. Were you introverted or outgoing? Were you an artist or a scientist? Were you organized or scattered? Were you humble or a show off? Did your writing slant up or down? And what did that mean? Were you angry, sad, happy, goofy?
Ah, here’s a good one–were you right-handed or left-handed?
And what of an entire industry that has probably gone by the wayside: the handwriting expert. Handwriting experts could describe personalities to a tee, or predict someone’s future, or diagnose a “criminal” for the courts. And they could spot a forger a mile away. And what about forgers? I suppose that’s a dying art as well.
There’s just not a whole lot to say about a bunch of abbreviations in a text message, except that maybe the sender is illiterate. In Italy, they say the young people don’t know how to spell correctly. They don’t know that “perché” is a whole word, for example. They think it’s “Xke” (the X is the symbol for “per” and “ke” is the phonetic sound of “ché”). There are countless other examples. Pity.
Don’t get me wrong, I love typing, especially on a great keyboard, and I’ve got speeds of up to 100 words a minute. But I still love writing in my journal or…gasp…handwriting a letter occasionally. I love the sensuousness of putting script down on paper with a beautiful pen, watching the letters form from my own hand, taking my time to think through what I’m writing (no cross-outs or deletes!), and marveling at the finished product on the page. And feeling proud of my penmanship.
Oh horrors! I look at the word penmanship itself and see that it’s way out of date in our politically correct world. If such an activity were still popular today, it would have to be called penpersonship or penhumanship, or worse yet, touchpadchallengedship.
The point is, so what if I fail? I mean, if Sylvia Plath could feel like a failure at times, so can I, right?
Motivation. Where is it? I sit down to write and the millions of thoughts I have don’t make it to the page. No, scratch that. That’s not what I want to say. Start over.
Feeling out of sorts. Big time. Dreams of cluttered houses, I can’t make it up the stairs, dirt everywhere, doors that don’t open, people invading my space. Creativity gets tangled up in the cobwebs. BEEP! Wrong again. I’m failing to say what I really want to say. Okay, one more time.
What I want to say is, simply, that I miss my mother more than I ever thought possible. I thought my heavy heart had lifted after the two-year anniversary of her death on New Year’s Day. Wrong. I need to put her life and death into perspective and get on with my life. How to do this.
Aha. It’s staring me in the face. Upstairs in my little study, I see it. On the desk stand four photos, four generations of women in my family.
Looking at these photos, I realize that life passes from one generation to the next with memories that are like a silk thread—shimmering, resilient, supple, but also fragile and bound to disintegrate over time. As these women in my life went before me, so too shall I go one day. It’s inevitable. Okay. Accepted. In the mean time, live life to the fullest (oh how cliché!) and savor a few good memories (at least I got that part right).
This is my great-grandmother at 75, the day she said her life began. Haha! She had a great sense of humor. She wrote a book about her life and the last chapter was entitled, “Life Begins at 75”. That was when Pa died (she and my great-grandfather were just known as Ma and Pa). They were Mormon. She had her 14 children without ever seeing the inside of a hospital. She used to say that she had a baby every other spring whether Pa was there or not! I look at the wonderful sepia-toned photographs in her book and marvel at one photo that shows the whole family stuffed into the covered wagon heading off to church. When Pa died, she sold the farm, and started to travel. She never wanted to see another cow or make soap or cook or beat dozens of sheets into dry submission again. She saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time and held me as a baby on the beach.
This is my grandmother, Lola, at 25 in 1925. She was the tall one of the children. No one knows where she got her height (5’9″), or her beauty, and it was the stuff of intense jealousy among her sisters. Lola was a contralto, with a honeyed voice that melted hearts. She was the first female soloist in the Tabernacle Choir from 1919-1921. But the grander life pulled at her, and she left Salt Lake City and Mormonism for New York to pursue her singing career. There, she met my grandfather, a banker from Chicago, in a hotel lounge where she was singing. She had known him from Salt Lake City but only from afar. When she saw him walk in and sit down, she sang one of the classics of 1924, “It Had to be You” and never took her eyes off him. The rest, as they say, is history.
This is my mother, Jean, at 18, newly engaged to my father. She was a also a singer, a beautiful soprano. She was raised in Chicago in private girls’ schools, but she had a rebellious streak in her. Rather than going off to one of the elite colleges on the east coast, she chose the University of Chicago and was accepted into the Hutchins School there at the age of 16. My grandmother never forgave her…my grandfather was secretly thrilled. I’ve written about my mother on other posts, how she broke the mold and how she spent her last 25 years in San Miguel de Allende surrounded by her three dogs, five cats, and her two beloved horses. There was a full moon last night, she came to visit me.
And yours truly at 21 (I will NOT say how long ago, thank you very much). I’m not sure how my life compares with these three women, but I do have some of each within me: my great-grandmother’s humor, my grandmother’s height, my mother’s rebelliousness and willingness to take chances (13 years ago, we left California to start a new life in Italy). I wish the four of us could sit down together and talk about our lives. It’ll just have to do to have the photos close to me, and when I feel a tug at my heart, I know it’s that old silk thread pulling at me with shimmering, resilient, supple memories that are bound to disintegrate over time.
I dunno. Maybe scratch all of this and start over. I’ll try to think of what I really want to say.