By: Tanya Ward Goodman
I got a postcard in the mail today. On the front was a picture of some sea turtles and on the back, written in teeny, tiny letters was a note from my mother. For the past several weeks, she has traded record-breaking chill for a balmier kind of winter and she sounds happy. She writes that the wind is up. She writes that she saw a whale splash its tail fourteen times. She writes that she misses us and that she loves us. She writes that she is happy. She mentions the weather and the food she is eating and when I read her lines, I see her sitting with her feet pulled up, using her knee as a desk.
The postcard was the best thing in the mail today. Not that there was much competition: a car payment bill, more J. Crew catalogs (do they ever stop?), an envelope that belongs to the previous resident of our house. I carry the postcard around, keeping Mom with me as I go through my day. When my kids come home from school, I will ask my son to read it aloud to my daughter and they will see my mom, too. They will imagine where she wrote this card and how long she kept it in her pocket before she took it to the post office.
The news on the card is not news. I spoke to Mom a couple of days ago and she mentioned on the phone that she had written a card. The news is not critical, but the site of her handwriting brings her closer to me in a different way than the sound of her voice. I like her small, compact script, each letter ending in a curve as though they are all standing on little feet.
My son is learning to write cursive. It is hard for him to concentrate and tiring to hold the pencil. He tells me he can’t write as fast as his brain works.
“Why cursive?” my husband asks. “Why learn to write when now, we type?”
“For thank you notes,” I reply. “For postcards and love letters.”
My father wrote in cursive liberally sprinkled with printed words, capital letters and lots of exclamation points. He wrote long letters in ballpoint pen on yellow legal pads. I have saved these letters and now that he is gone, it is comforting to see this livewire scrawl. When I read his words, I can hear his voice, I can see his hand moving across the page.
I write notes to my children and slip them into their lunch boxes. I ask them to eat their sandwiches and pay attention in class. I tell them I love them and I hope that when they hold these little slips of paper and trace their fingers over the marks on the page, they feel that love just a little bit more.