What Inspires: Chicken Scratch I walked away from a post-holidays “debate” with my sis-in-law, Joanne, with chicken scratch on my mind.
Joanne, a Special-Ed teacher, maintains that learning cursive isn’t important anymore, and furthermore, that future generations may not write at all. Not to say they won't comunicate. They may well communicate faster, more easily, and on more advanced levels. Instead of writing, they'll dictate and a machine will respond accordingly and/or transcribe if needed; non-verbal folks will type and the machine will speak. Wha-Lah: Communication!
This might well be the way of the future. But…but…but… BAWWWWWWK!
Recent arguments about how practicing and learning writing is as important t0 brain development as going through the “crawling stage” and learning to skip aside, I can’t stop thinking about what will be lost if people stop writing?
I keep a box of cards and letters; my mother has one; my grandfather did, too. (I type, “did” because my grandmother burned my grandfather's, along with his family photos, shortly after his funeral (will we ever know why???)
When my grandmother died, I found hers, too. I didn’t burn it; I was embarrassed by it, though, and delighted and saddened and mortified to discover "brilliant" Mini-me thought “Boston” was spelled “Boaston” and my teacher, Mr. Tweet, may well have had legitimate cause for giving me a C- in 5th grade penmanship (which crushed me and kept me from making the Honor Roll)
I was touched and thrilled to discover my grandmother kept those cards and letters--if for no other reason that that I get to read them, touch them, smell them. . . . An exchange of molecules takes place during the process of “penning a note” which adds a different twist to the term “give something of yourself.” During the process of writing the note we transfer piece of ourselves to the paper. Unlike carbon dating, human residue on hand-written card, notes, letter—recipes—don’t lessen by halves, it becomes more precious. (Any historic, cultural, kitsch value of the card is another discussion entirely.)
This holiday season, just as I have other holidays, I pulled out my raggedy recipe accordion folder and riffled through recipes. One Christmas eons ago (when my mother had more time and imagination than funding) she created a recipe file for my grandmother and herself. She typed “favorite” recipes on index cards and decorated them with doodles and comments. I relish those recipe cards. They whisk me back to when Mom was younger, energetic, and willing to spend the time on handmade gifts. As cheesy as many of them are, I love looking at them. They always make me smile and remember, as does “Aunt Margie’s Sheet Cake,” Grandma Lee’s “Noodle Koogle” and my grandmother’s “Never-fail Pie Crust.” (And dang if those pre low-fat, low-butter, low-calorie, low-sugar, high-nutrition recipes aren't dang tasty!)
This holiday season, I received a piddly pile of cards—which I saved to savor after the rush and beyond as they will be duly read, then stored in my memory box. The bulk of my holiday greetings and post-holiday thank you notes arrived via email. And though I read and enjoyed them, I didn’t—even when I could have—print them out to save. I may save an e-mail note or card in Outlook, I rarely print one with the purpose of saving it. Those I do print rest in a wicker basket which bears a striking resemblance to the recycle basket. Even in my wildest imaginings, I can not make myself believe a time will come when scent, skin, bone, tears, smudges, molecules can travel through the Internet, to the satellite and fiber optic cable, squish out the printer. (At least old-fashioned "dittos" smelled good--Oooh! Ooohh! I'll run off the copies for you, Mrs. Hsang...can I? Please, oh pretty please?????)
In a lecture on non-fiction at Vermont College of Fine Art last year, Diane Stanley shared how she researched her books.c She shared that judging from the volume, frequency, and immediacy of correspondence, communication in London during Charles Dickens time was almost as fast as today. As a result, volumes of his thoughts, ideas, musings, menus, gripes—in his own words—are read, enjoyed, studied, perused, evaluated, analyzed, synthesized, idolized, etc. etc. by scholars today. With e-mail notes, sms, cards, tweets, etc. stand the same test?