Do Something Worthwhile: Send a Handwritten Note
I have a $25 check from my grandmother in a wooden box in my bedroom.
It’s worthless, because I mobile deposited it in 2016 when she sent it to me.
But I treasure it because when I look at it, I can see the wrinkled skin on her hands and the purple pen she used to write it. I love looking at the added curl at the top of the E and the full circle she used to dot the i.
I’m sure it was the last time she wrote my name because she passed away just a few months later.
My grandmother was a steady force in my life, with advice about dating (don’t pick someone too old or they won’t be able to carry your bags) and fashion (those chunky shoes make your calves look heavy). She loved mayonnaise and chocolate, and sometimes when I wake up in the morning, I forget that she is gone.
Then I remember that the part of my life where I’m young and my grandparents and parents worry about how I’ll turn out is over. I’m a grown up now and I need to make my own coffee and check to make sure my kids’ lunch accounts are paid.
I have a million memories of my grandmother that I cling to. The birthday cakes with the boiled sugar frosting. The fried donuts and the ever present cans of Aquanet hairspray. But I can’t touch those. They are ephemeral and fleeting, and not something I can hang on to when life feels hard.
But there’s something about that check that I find forever comforting. I can close my eyes and feel the ridges where the pen pressed down. I could recognize the loops and curls anywhere and they give me a physical connection to the past.
They remind me of the letters she sent me in college on the free Easter Seals stationary she got in the mail.
They remind me of the birthday cards and the graduation notes that have long ago been lost to recycling bins.
They remind me that I come from a long line of women and mothers who have endured tragedy, romance, births, deaths, agony, and ecstasy.
My daughter is turning 9 in three days. She remembers that the last time we visited my grandmother, we brought her a big box of Russell Stover chocolates, and I let her eat as many as she wanted.
My grandmother gave her tubes of lipstick, pendant necklaces and gaudy floral brooches that she pins on to her outfits when she wants to feel fancy. When my daughter was three, my grandmother bought her a pair of high-heeled cork sandals, which is one of my daughter’s earliest and favorite memories.
Tonight, we ordered takeout and while we waited in the parking lot, I did a silly dance in the parking lot to entertain her. She is just old enough to find me embarrassing and she begged me to stop.
I know that someday her memories of her childhood will feel fuzzy and fleeting. But I want her to know that she comes from a long line of strong women.
So when I write her a birthday card, I’m going to get a blue ball point pen and write it out by hand. I want her to know my irregular letters and my jagged scribbles. When she’s old and I’m even older, I want her to know my handwriting and take comfort in it, as a physical reminder of days gone by.
What will I write? I don’t even know if that matters. And will she save my card? Probably not.
But when I give it to her, it will be a little piece of me and a little piece of my grandmother. I’ll give her my loops and curls in a way that Times New Roman can never replicate.
Next to my grandmother’s check, I have postcards, letters and notes from dear friends and family. I’m ruthless about getting rid of old shoes, old dishes, old books and shirts. I throw away art projects, holiday decorations, half finished jars of jam and pretty good towels. But I can never part with these little handwritten scraps of paper.
Now that we’re all in some form of lockdown, human connections are more valuable than ever. We can’t hug, we can’t cook together or even share a cup of coffee.
But what we can do is write. On paper, with a pen. Whether it’s awkward, all-caps printing, or delicate, twining cursive, our handwriting is a direct connection to our minds, our hearts and our bodies.
But stamps are cheap, paper is cheap, and we’ve got time on our hands.
So close your CNN tab, put your phone down and write someone a note.
It might not feel as good as a hug, but it can last much longer.
For more of my thoughts on handwriting, try out this article: