my mother’s penmanship
October 16, 2017 § Leave a comment
My mother’s penmanship is nothing like mine.
Her smooth cursive glides in between two shades of her pen, interrupted only by perfunctory stops. Each loop and line written in full and consistent control. “Light, dark…light, dark“, as she showed me one day how it’s done the “Paulinian” way. “They didn’t teach me that in school. Can you just write my name on my notebook labels, Inay?“, I pleaded. She would usually accede to my request, at least until before I went into secondary school. When high school came, even doing the plastic cover wrapping was suddenly expected of me. Looking at how I wrote my name usually made me squint in disgust. The letters rarely stood on the same line, and the angles & sizes were undeniably mismatched. In addition to that, I had to make do using print. My cursive was even more appalling. It barely improved over time. In contrast, though my plastic cover wrap started rather shabbily, I grew better with it over time. So much so that I even looked forward to doing it for my brother – something he readily allowed me to claim responsibility for. After a few years of bearing with my handwritten labels, I finally asked my mom to get me a name stamp. It increased my desire to see my school books.
This was what I thought of as I dropped the letter I wrote for Tita Marivic in the mailbox. She was one of my mother’s close friends, at least that’s how I would describe her. My mom didn’t really have friends she would regularly hang out with, so to speak. She loved her socials and parties, but they weren’t constant cliques. But I remembered Tita Marivic’s regular visits to our house in Sampaloc up until the time before she migrated to Australia. Memories of their conversations are vague, but I recall sitting on her lap. I was perhaps 6 or 7 then when she left – and I never did see her again. When my mom passed away, we received a letter from her. I could only assume she still kept in touch with my mom until the latter years as we had changed our address already by then. Moved by her kind gesture, I wrote to her as well to thank her for her condolences. I wrote so many letters that month, with the help of my brother and with the prodding of my father. It helped us manage the pain better – to dwell on good memories and focus on gratitude. And as with how the consciousness to friendly affection can sometimes vaporize over both the routine and hysteria of everyday living, it was only after almost 4 years again that she got in touch with me by way of greeting me on my birthday a couple of weeks ago. I was ashamed for not having kept in touch, not because we were friends, but because she was my mother’s. A thread of connection that I did not necessarily want to let go just because my mom’s knot was unraveled. As I walked away from the post box, I was gripped by a sudden regret. I hadn’t written a disclaimer for my messy handwriting and neither did I consciously try to make it more legible than usual, how inconsiderate of me.
But more than that, it somehow pained me a little that Tita Marivic would not be able to remark how I had the penmanship of my mother.