Monday, March 19, 2018

Today . . .

. . . is Patrick’s twentieth birthday. He’s our second oldest grandchild and is seen here with our second youngest (for a day or two.)

We celebrated his birthday on Saturday, because he was home on Spring break and had to return yesterday to St. Louis (the city) and Saint Louis (the University.)
I am assuming he got back OK, although he was eleven hours late on his Detroit bound trip, thanks to a no show Greyhound. We are hoping that is good practice for travel in the Fall, when he will be enrolled at the Saint Louis campus in Madrid.

Like most college students he has re-thought his major a couple of times and has now settled on a double major in English and Philosophy. That means he makes his grandfather happy by his interest in esoteric philosophers and their theories of most things, and engages the rest of us by recommending books and authors a little more suited for our earthbound tastes. He is developing great skill as a writer—keep going, Patrick, we need more like you in the world. Happy Birthday.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Celebration in Rockville

It is Andrew’s birthday today. He reads this blog so no age will be given or hinted at. I suspect there will be no celebration for him tonight: he and Marcie spend their “spare” time running their six children to swimming, basketball, baseball and whatever else any of them have taken up recently.

This photo probably wasn’t taken at school, because the kids in the background are not wearing the neat green uniforms of St. Patricks. He teaches at the same school where five of his own children attend. Next year it will be four and so on down the line.

Hard to believe in is almost twenty-five years since he went to DC. He had a couple of great experiences while earning an M.A. at Catholic University: he got to be a proctor with the Senate Page program and then to work  at the Newman bookstore where he could indulge in reading—and sometimes buying—books.

Next year I will post some his wall building and woodworking projects, but for now I will only celebrate his work in the classroom, teaching Religion and Math with a class of Latin on the side. Happy Birthday, Andrew.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Cuneiform to Cursive and Beyond

In my last post I included a photo of Lydia’s paper on polar bears. It was jarring as I looked at it (in a good way, Diddy.) When I was nine I would have hand written the whole  thing and possibly given a rough idea of a bear's appearance with a hand-drawn blob. I was over fifty before I typed anything on a computer or figured out how to import a JPEG into my text.

I can’t remember learning to write, although I am grateful to whoever taught me that I was not forced to use my right hand. Like my mother I am naturally left-handed. She grew up in an era when being left handed was a mortal sin and I never noticed if she had been forced to make her right hand dominant in other tasks. I know I grew up with my left hand dominant for some tasks (knitting, sewing, throwing a ball) and using my right hand for other action (digging, hitting a rounders ball etc.) Once we could write in block letters, we waited for the next stage of growing up—learning cursives. I still have a few books with my name laboriously written on the fly leaf.

But then, after the 11+ and my entrance into Enfield County School, we had to give up cursives and learn “school writing.” We were destined for a life of essay after essay, tests with nary a  “multiple choice” question in sight and (no-one dreamed of computers at the time) years of wielding a pen or pencil. School writing was basically cursive, but with all the time-consuming loops and flourishes smoothed out or removed. It was not unattractive and it was certainly faster to use. I developed an unsightly, ink-stained “bunion” on the side of the middle finger of my left hand. The ink disappeared in the first decade of my post-graduate life, the bunion took a little longer to go. At the same time my handwriting reverted in part to my earlier style of cursive, incorporated a Greek epsilon or two  and became an unpleasant, messy hybrid.

Fast forward to the age of computers. I continued for many years to write letters by hand until it struck me that there were advantages to typing a letter. Mis-spellings were easier to correct, forgotten paragraphs could be inserted, unfortunate phrases or comments could disappear with no tell-tale remnants of Wite-Out. The warmth of my letter could perhaps compensate for the rigid medium. There are still a few letters which must be hand written, and I dread letters of condolence, not because I have no sentiments or sympathy to express, but because I often have to start again as my hand, and the brain that controls it, run amok across the page and nouns appear where I had intended to write verbs and so on. Even totally unintended words tend to make an appearance.

My grandchildren are products of their time. When we write birthday cards, with our sentiments lovingly expressed in our current version of cursives, we are often present as they open the cards and attempt to share our words with their family. Good grief, one would think we were writing in Linear B and they needed Michael Ventris to come along and put them out of their misery.

I should add that a couple of days ago we read an article about Georgetown University forbidding students to use lap tops for note taking, and insisting that their students use long hand to take notes in class. Misery ensued. Poor kids couldn’t even read their own writing. Enough said.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Double Digits for Lydia Jane

I have always loved my granddaughter’s name. Sounds like something out of Jane Austen. Within her family she has always been known as “Diddy.” Not sure what that sounds like.

She’s the youngest of five, which means she could be the most put-upon or spoiled.  With two older brothers and two older sisters there may be a little of both, but she is the happiest, smilingest girl you could want to meet. The spellcheck thing told me smilingest is not a word and I might want to substitute smelliest. It’s a word if I say it’s a word!

She also has a great imagination and creativity, as was shown by the cow-themed accessories she has made for today’s family birthday party.

Lydia’s teacher was most impressed by her essay on Polar Bears. Perhaps she will grow up to be an author. Happy Birthday, Lydia.