By BEVERLY DRAPALIK
Yes, computers are exceptionally useful. Teachers can now read essays in half the time, students who are proficient in keyboarding can produce mountains of copy, and editing is easily accomplished with a click of the mouse. No one in his right mind would argue that typewriters and correction fluid or tape is better than Microsoft Word! No one, except writers such as Maya Angelou. She is known for writing on a yellow legal pad. How many of us would actually use legal pads day after day?
Guilt has begun to set in because the other day I encouraged my students to use all of the “bells and whistles” on their computers. I told them that spell check and grammar check could help their grades, and that the “smiley faces and LOL’s” should be in personal texts. I have also talked with students about the strange habit of texting a friend in the next dorm room in order to go to the dining hall together. What happened to hanging in a friend’s doorway or flopping onto the bed for a face-to-face conversation? In a world of hyper-communication, I can understand why typing is their choice, but not all work needs to be neatly typed. Writing on standardized tests must be legible; addresses on envelopes must be readable; forms for employment must be perfect. Sooner or later, students will be required to write legibly.
Education has been affected, but our personal lives have changed, too: when we communicate by typing, we lose an extension of ourselves and our friends. Getting a Christmas card in the mail with handwritten memories and news has a huge excitement factor now. The last card I received with a single-spaced, typed letter about my friend’s life during 2011 was greeted with, “Oh no, I’m not sure I want to hear about another swim meet!” That next card with a handwritten memory of twenty years ago, however, brought a smile to my face. I also smile when my husband asks for ingredients for his Christmas Houska, a special Polish bread. I retrieve the handwritten recipe, complete with brown spots created by butter, written by his mom. As I cruise the other recipes, I find my mom’s handwriting, a great aunt’s handwriting, and suddenly I am visiting memories.
So, with memories in mind, I will resolve to take extra time to write more by hand. I’ve saved notes from former students and parents, so I know the power that handwritten notes have. I’ve saved Hallmark cards, written by my mom and dad. Their love is declared in a few special handwritten words. I’ll be cutting the signature pages from the cards and making a collage in the back of a shadowbox that will hold his watch face and her jewelry. Today, instead of typing twenty memories on a separate page for enclosure, I’ve chosen to write three memories in a sympathy card to my Aunt Wilma.
Through the years I’ve made many mistakes. One of the worst decisions was to buy that coffee mug for a teacher. I’ve even baked for a teacher. Yes, I bent to peer pressure and store merchandise. I should have spent money on beautiful pens and stationery to create my heartfelt, handwritten note to her. She could have saved it very easily!
Beverly Drapalik lives in Wilmington with her husband, Jeff. They also live with a dog, a cat, a parrot, chickens and bees. She teaches English at Wilmington College.