Thursday, January 30, 2014

Letter formation

We were late to preschool today. We had been at the girls' school for E's class publishing party. All these bright-eyed second graders read from their stories to a standing-room-only crowd of parents and siblings. These children, the ones who look both so big and so tiny, finding their projecting voices, reading from the prepared Powerpoint slides, displaying new competencies and old earnest shynesses, they dazzled us. 

After the students showed us their presentation and read their story excerpts, we had the chance to read E's story in full. It was wonderful, of course, but I was most captivated by the dedication:


not only because of the kindness of her sentiment or because she imagines that the lovely husband might wear red pants. It's her handwriting. It's suddenly so distinct. Those lower-case letters are so fluent, and when did her letters find their leftward slant? They have personality now. Her handwriting has found an identity.

Or, ya know, she's growing up.

We said goodbye, kissed her forehead, and walked L back to kindergarten. L's letter N is backwards sometimes. Her b and d play evil twins, showing up in each other's places. But it wasn't long ago that she didn't write lower-case at all.

Finally at preschool, our morning routine isn't quite right. The other kids aren't sitting at their pre-breakfast activities. It's free time, and some friends are at the play kitchen, some are at the blocks. They swarm around the room, entropy in place of the usual order. And G reacts differently. Our order changes, too. Normally we hang up his jacket together and unpack his food together. Today he drops everything and heads for the binder. Maybe he's been inspired by his sisters. Maybe he is looking for a reason to stay close to the door, slow his entrance into the frenzy. He picks up the orange pencil and finds his page.

His name is printed at the top, fat, bold, no serifs or confusion, each letter a monolith, sturdy, safe, imitable. He finds a blank line below. Ordinarily he shuns the suggestion of the binder. He is careful, eyes traveling up and down again. For the first time, his jagged lines look recognizably like careful, hesitant iterations of all the right letters. We get to watch another beginning.


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