Serving the Towns of Wawarsing, Crawford, Mamakating, Rochester and Shawangunk, and everything in between
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Dear Pen Pal...

So I was watching a news program the other day that stated that since the written word has become obsolete with today's texting, keyboard-ish tendencies, the public schools are going to drop teaching cursive handwriting. They said it was no longer necessary and it will fade into the abyss of forgotten things. What a sad day!

Being a writer I truly love the beauty of cursive handwriting with its soft swooping curves, fragrant ink and gentle slant. It makes me long for the days of feather or quill-type fountain pens with ink in ornate inkwells. I always loved those big plume ink pens; so fancy and delightful; how could you not have a smile on your face writing with one of those? Each person's handwriting is also unique to only them — like your very own snowflake. No one else's is quite like yours, making it a very personal thing — can't get that from a text, or an email.

So this new hatin' of all things cursive will probably have a big effect on the art of letterwriting; truly in danger so it seems. I'm so panicked about it I just want to go out and get a pen pal in the jungles of Guam who writes with squid ink on banana leaves and never heard of Facebook, or ...computers... and maybe indoor plumbing... We could have great conversations about our different cultures, give the post office some business, and centuries from now people will find our letters and discover that cursive writing once existed. Now if I could only find some sort of store around here that still sells stationery (although they probably have dust on them) and maybe some real books that don't have to be downloaded. Lord!

My daughter is going into third grade next year and will be learning cursive writing unless they decide to make it optional now. I'd be nervous for her if they kept it because this year her report card was all good... except handwriting. It's all in her grip...she tends to hold it like she's going to go all Lizzie Borden on the paper, stabbing it with the pencil. Throws me back into my own third grade class in the dark ages and the stern eye of Mr. Carter trying to get me, a lefty, to slant to the right like the righties. He kept telling me to curl my hand around practically crippling myself; but I wouldn't do it. I tried to reason with him that it's more comfortable to slant to the left if you're a lefty and slant to the right if you're a righty. Made sense to me. He grew irate and yelled something about "How dare I question him" and called my parents in for a conference. All three of them sat my eight-year-old butt down to a "talkin' to" about the importance of good penmanship and how I'll never get anywhere in life if I can't write properly. "What about doctors? They do pretty good and nobody can understand a word of their messy handwriting," I replied to them. After the long stunned silence, my mother said through clenched teeth, "CAROL ANN!" which spelled trouble since she used my middle name. And pretty much anything said through clenched teeth is not good. I don't know how but I won that battle I think because they were so exasperated, and they let me slant to the left.

The fact that not a soul can read a thing I've written on paper but myself is not such a bad thing. It's like my own secret code. Unfortunately there have been times when I can't seem to crack the code and figure out what the hell I wrote either. It's okay though, when that happens, I know just what to do — I knock on my neighbor's door. "Yeah, hi there, Dr. Miller, sorry to wake you up so early, but can you read what I've written down here? I can't seem to figure it out and I know it's important and since you're a doctor that has really bad handwriting as well, I thought maybe you could take a stab at it." He didn't seem too happy with me just then because when he translated, "Eggs, milk, butter, and juice" it was through clenched teeth. I have a feeling he is not going to be helpful in translating my pen pal letters from Guam.

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