Remember when a monogrammed item was something special?
Those aspiring to aristocratic status would have their initials emblazoned on personal effects, such as handkerchiefs and clothing. Couples would announce their forthcoming nuptials on initiations customized with elaborate renderings of their soon-to-be combined initials. Both suggested that one had the power and the permanence of typography in your corner, as well as the budget to harness it.
The idea of a monogram still carries some kind of aspirational quality. I just read an article about a handbag company that will, for an additional fee, scan your handwritten words of choice, then hand-stitch the digitized scribble into your new purse. Now, it seems, cursive has caché.
These days, although I feel as if I write volumes on a daily basis, I really only practice my handwriting while accepting donations at the funeral home. And, while I take pains to make names and addresses as legible as possible, I can’t help but feel that my penmanship is more chicken scratch than calligraphy, especially when presented with elegantly penned cheques from the more senior set (folks closer to my demographic scribble out cheques – if they use them at all — in the same slapdash style I do).
Most people would blame our culture’s current dependency on computers for our collective cursive decline, and I wouldn’t disagree in the least. But I would personally add another reason: journalism. Years of not relying on the passive interviewing that a tape recorder allows for also means endless notebooks of notes penned in haste, in increasingly sloppy shorthand that now acts as the norm.
Not that I ever had good penmanship in the first place; I excelled in printing but my script lacked luster, possibly due to my self-diagnosed ambidexterity. Jagged and ramrod-straight, my quick brown fox never had the starboard slant it should have. It didn’t lend itself to girly curlicues or hearts replacing the dots on the lowercase J or I, either (and for trivia’s sake, those dots are technically called “tittles”).
Do young students even still learn penmanship? The Ontario curriculum seems to promote the creation of multiple types of media rather than the perfection of one — a sensible approach in this day and age, but I can’t help but hope that penmanship is included. I certainly don’t favour a return to the days when students would be deducted marks for not dropping their Gs or Ys properly, or scolded if they weren’t sitting up perfectly straight while practicing their script.
We do, however, all need to know some kind of universal, permanent language for when that science fiction nightmare occurs and computers finally turn on us and we’re forced to rely on our innate skills instead of a keyboard. Or, to be less dramatic, what will we do if we have to endure a long power outage or share information with someone who’s forgotten their cellphone? We don’t need textbook-pretty printing, but I hope that pens and paper don’t fall out of vogue just yet.
Admittedly, I’m feeling a little misty-eyed for the act of handwriting lately because Charlotte is just starting to take an interest in it. I’ve found a few of those aforementioned donation slips with a neatly printed series of unintelligible symbols and signs in our desk drawer, and she’s been asking me to write her name on all the paintings she produces lately. We’ve bought her a placemat with her name on it to teach her to recognize it, and one day to print it in a style that’s all her own. Will I feel the same wave of pride when she pecks out her name on the keyboard in Times New Roman for the first time? Come to think of it, it would be a pretty cool splurge to have the first time Charlotte’s written her name inscribed in a special place to save for the ages… What’s the going cost of a piece of paper these days?
When faced with a multitude of ready-made food items, it can be easy to forget that most foods can be made from scratch. Here’s a simple way to preserve this fall’s perfect apple crop.
New Crop Apple Sauce
6 firm apples, like Cortland
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 small lemon, sliced ¼ inch thick, seeds removed
1 short piece cinnamon stick
Peel and core apples, then cut into large chunks. Put in a wide heavy saucepan and add sugar, lemon and cinnamon stick. Mix with wooden spoon. Add 1/2 cup water.
Set pan over medium-high heat and bring to a brisk simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until apples are soft, about 15 minutes. Remove lemon and cinnamon stick, then mash apples with wooden spoon, leaving mixture fairly rough. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.