I was a writer long before I knew how to string words together to form meaningful phrases. Even before I could tell a good story, I could write with the prettiest penmanship any four-year-old trailer trash boy has and will ever have. I thank my momma for that. Of all the things she's taught me, most important are always to say yes ma'am and no sir and that pretty handwriting is testament to a pretty soul. My momma has the prettiest soul. It blooms in the curlicues of her S's, the precision of her cursive T's.
When I was a little boy about to embark on kindergarten, my momma sat me down at the dining table and taught me cursive handwriting. On tablets of lined paper, she would write words in luscious script--dog, car, Timothy--skipping a line between each so that I could mimic her cursive underneath. This was our after supper ritual for weeks before school started, a sort of call and response akin to Catholic prayers. My mother bidding me beauty, and me reciprocating. I learned cursive writing before I was adept at writing in print.
Once I started school, my kindergarten teacher, bless her heart, didn't know what to do with the too nice, too sensitive little boy in her class who always wrote in cursive. I remember being constantly told that I'd learn that kind of handwriting in third grade, that in kindergarten I must print. But I liked the curlicues, the connectedness of cursive letters. I liked how it bound me up in my mother.
Things came to a head when my teacher, having had enough of my haut couture penmanship, escorted me into the hallway for a private scolding. I cried uncontrollably for the rest of the day, because until that point I'd never been scolded at school. My momma told me from day one of my academic career that if I ever, ever got in trouble at school, things would be even worse for me when I got home. She assured me she'd know if I had gotten in trouble so there was no point in keeping my transgression secret from her. A precocious but overly-dramatic child, I was certain my mother would kill me for writing in cursive.
But she didn't. Instead she made cursive handwriting special , by creating writing time with me each night at home. I was to print at school, but at nighttime, after my bath and before sleep, I'd lay across her bed in an over-sized t-shirt with a pen and pad and we'd write. Not stories or poems, mind you, but words. Cursive words, usually names, family members', pets'. That's how I know all of my aunts', uncles', and cousins' full names, from writing them out with my momma each night.
Years of schooling have deteriorating my beautiful hand. Exquisite penmanship is an art form that takes patience and leisure that in-class notetaking doesn't afford. When I leave notes for my momma back home--short things telling her where I've gone, when I'll be back, what I'd like for her to pick up at the store--she scowls at the disrepair my handwriting has fallen into. I've taken her gift and thrown it by the wayside, she thinks, my mother whose handwriting still flourishes and flicks across the page.