I recently suffered a serious bout of nostalgia when my friend Ellen posted a photo of her father’s recipe for Blueberry Cake on Facebook. The post said, “Norm's blueberry cake. Because summer. Miss him every day.” A photo of the cake appeared, and then at the request of numerous other friends, Ellen posted a photo of the recipe itself.
Never mind that it was a simple and delicious recipe (I made it. It was.) What struck Ellen, and me, was that she possessed the hastily jotted down directions on a sheet of notepaper in her father’s own handwriting. She made the cake as he had during many past blueberry seasons. The cake made her remember and miss him. Seeing his handwriting deepened that missing.
Not a week later, with no knowledge of Ellen’s post, my sister sent me a text message with a photo of a recipe for almond crescent cookies. The recipe was written on a piece of notepaper in my grandmother’s German-to-English script. My grandmother made these traditional Christmas cookies from Germany only once a year in December. Each grandchild received a dozen cookies, carefully packed in Barton’s candy tins. We savored those cookies- horded them. Making the almond crescents makes me miss her. Seeing her handwriting deepens that missing.
Receiving these two unrelated electronic messages within a few days time highlighted a sentiment that’s been with me ever since I received and translated more than 100 letters as part of the research I did for Even in Darkness. Those letters greatly enriched the characters based on the real-life correspondents. I miss real handwriting.
We don’t write out recipes or much of anything else anymore. Personal letters, diaries and journals, manuscripts, lists, accounting records, reminder notes all find their way onto computer software, texts, or phone apps. The quirks of our penmanship, abbreviations, and misspellings, and our notes in margins, are largely lost. Most of this trove of information never makes it to a printed page. Even the rare printing of the family recipe book I made for younger family members featured a fancy font far more legible than my poor handwriting. But what have we lost by eliminating handwriting from our personal imprint? What will individualize reminders of who we are for our dear ones? What will make them sigh and smile and feel a tug at their hearts? What bundle of letters or documents will they find years from now? As a writer, with miserable penmanship, I deeply appreciate word processing and smart phones. Still….
What hand-written document do you treasure? Let me know!
Photo credits: Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus, and Julie Stark