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Some Kids I Have Known
Spain's Penmanship


Mary Louise stood before her Uncle Frank waiting for him to go over her report card. With his usual detached way he was taking his time with the chore too. She was used to his way of meticulous observation. Still, she wasn't willing to wait patiently for judgement. The girl who was ten years old and in the fifth grade at this time and was just beginning to become serious about her marks in school. She shuffled her feet, actually stood on the sides of her shoe soles, and ultimately twisted back and forth sending her dress swishing with the motion.

"Mary Louise!" "Fidget!" "Fidget!" "Fidget!" "Stand still please, while I look this over."

"You are okay in everything except..........." He stopped his finger's path down the row of grades holding it at the place which was marked penmanship. "You have a "C" in penmanship?"

"Yes Mam," "I mean, Sir." "Sir."

Now the fact of the matter was this was no unplanned thing, her having to show her report card to her Uncle. There was discussion about the fact the girl was not coming up to standards on this particular subject. Her Uncle Frank had mastered penmanship from his Spanish father, who had been taught by his father. Mary Louise had no comprehension as to why she was having to show her report card to her Uncle. She was just always very careful about her manners when she was in her Uncle's presence. She knew he expected her to be well behaved and mannerly. She also knew she was probably his favorite and this gave her a little edge.

"Are you using pen and ink in class?" Uncle Frank asked her.

"Yes, sir." "A ball point pen."

The year was 1947. Ball point pens were something new to the child and she dearly wished to own one. At this time they were not as perfected as they are today. Those pens were heavy with bold lines. They often left little globs of ink in dots along the lines. Sometimes, they actually did spring a leak leaving one's hands covered with the thick messy ink. This was part of the reason the grade of "C" was given. A smudged paper with lines holding little dots of ink wasn't really what could be considered attractive script. These things her Uncle Frank knew, but he was quiet and pensive as he handed her card back to her. He made no comment one way or another.

The next morning as she was leaving for school from the kitchen door, her mother stopped her for a moment. "Mary Louise, Uncle Frank brought this pen and ink for you." "He wants you to go ahead and take it to school to use for your penmanship class."

With all boldness she pulled the pen and ink from her desk when they were told it was time for a spelling test. The new different pen began to sing a new song to her as it flowed along with what seemed to be a personality of its own. There was no drag, not dots on the lines, and best of all her hand all at once was making the most beautiful characters. Not one smudge appeared on her paper. There was such a freedom with the pen she was able to concentrate on the spelling of the words more completely. She cared not at all that her class mates were making a note of her unusual pen. Jerry, her best friend, was most of all interested because Mary Louise's grades improved in just days.

As time was going on and the child's work was obviously achieved through the use of the old-fashioned pen her friend made an offer. "You can have my pen if you will let me use your pen, some of the time."

Now, this was really an offer one could not pass up. This ball point pen was of a more expensive range and didn't do all the unwanted things Mary's old pen had done. The trade was made. Mary Louise was not that sure she should do this and was reluctant to tell her Uncle Frank she had traded off the pen he had given her for this ball point pen, even if it was a very attractive pen.

That evening she decided she must tell Uncle Frank about the trade. She would just have to bear the lowered gaze he could turn on anyone when he was displeased.

"Uncle Frank, I traded the pen you gave me for this ball point." "A friend wanted it, and she gave me her very nice ball point pen." "See!" She held out the attractive but, a heavier instrument.

As usual, there was no scolding forthcoming. Instead, he reached up to his desk and pulled out another pen just like the one he had given her before. "Come!" "Sit." He was a person of few words.

It was at this time she really fell in love with penmanship. As he showed her how to put pressure on the pen to spread the tip of it just enough to change the width of a line, Mary Louise was a student enthralled. The ways he softly held the pen almost letting it fall into the most beautiful swirls and turns were just like opening a secret doorway to show great messages there. This must have been written on the child's face because as her Uncle handed her the pen, he shook it a couple of times in her direction he said, "Hang on to this one!"


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