My Devoted Ma
Thursday, June 4th, 2015
Wild bird species list.
It recurs to me—as I take up my keyboard, sheepishly, to compose my first missive here in far too long—that I hardly write anything by hand anymore. For all my “Woe are we who no longer put pen to paper” laments, I don’t exactly practice what I preach. My handwriting lately appears mostly just on things I sign (few, in this increasingly paperless world) or the blank three-by-five-inch index cards I fill obsessively with lists and doodles (mostly doodles). And it ain’t exactly what you’d describe as “cursive.”
These days, in fact, I write so little that hand-cramp comes after I’ve penned not much more than a paragraph.
But if the honeybee population crashes, and big agriculture fails, and civilization is thrown into turmoil, and the electrical grid goes down, I’d still know how to write, at least— although I would have to brush up on my horsemanship.
Mom provided the source materials for my first old script font, Texas Hero.
A few of us do still communicate via old-style letters instead of email. Neuroscientists even believe it worthwhile to resist the modern convenience of the keyboard. Yes, digital technology has in the past generation or so swallowed up and superseded our old pen-and-paper ways—whither film photography? magnetic audiotape?—but it turns out that commanding my fingers to manipulate a tool into coaxing tiny curves and loops and circles and stars onto a three-by-five-inch index card is better exercise for my brain than simply commanding my fingertips tap out a series of keys.
Back in the early days of personal computers, my fast-typing father (a technophile) was quick to embrace—and introduce me to—the Apple Macintosh. My mother (a technophobe) never had any use for such things. But Mom could sure write a mean letter. What I have now from my dad is a large digital archive of epistolary files; what I have from my mom are scores of her handwritten letters.
I could always tell from Mom’s familiarly small, looping cursive when she was pensive and when she was in a hurry. I can easily see when her letter was interrupted by one of the many pressing chores that filled her busy days. And I can certainly see, in her later correspondence, the jittery, up-and-down effects Parkinson’s Disease had on her penmanship. Still, her words were always measured and expressive, her hand ever allusive and refined.
And still her letters have a sound. A smell. A feel.
After Parkinson’s had set in. (Ma always closed this way.)
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I’m currently at work on a vintage handwriting face that seeks to replicate the dense, compact, disconnected cursive script on troop rosters of His Majesty’s Tenth Regiment of Foot, circa 1776–1778. The Tenth of Foot is famous for having fought against American colonial revolutionaries at the Battles of Lexington and Concord and the Battle of Bunker Hill.
I’m pretty excited about this one. It should be legible, distinctive, and authentic for the period. I expect to release it by July 4th, 2015. (If you’d like me to let you know when it’s finished, feel free to sign up for our email newsletter.)
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Honestly, though, I just can’t live without a stack of blank three-by-five-inch index cards.
Tags: correspondence, doodles, epistolary, handwriting, handwritten letters, Military Scribe font, old letters, penmanship