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
"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,
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
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
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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