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Fanciful Quotation Marks



She was at an age when penmanship was becoming important in her desire to communicate.  She could see that the big loopy, flowery letters with circles to dot the I s was childish and not the way she wished to be known.  Flipping open her college rule tablet she would practice cursive until it was fine tuned and even now described as elegant.

Something different indeed. Her Grade 5 teacher had requested her parents  attend a special parent-teacher conference and she was to participate also. They were all worried about what it could be about, and they could only make guesses, nothing firm.   The last time a special conference had been called it was in second grade and she had not been included.  Miss Hansen told her parents that her imagination was too fanciful and she was too full of stories and wandering thinking to succeed in making friends or achieving success in mathematics.   Her parents had come home and told her to stop being so lazy, pay attention, the teacher knew what was best, and she was never to tell another lie to anyone.  That was to be the end of it, but it was not.   Miss Hansen wrote on her permanent record which followed her to graduate school – “This child is lazy and has a tendency to tell fanciful lies. Parents notified and confirmed. ”

That indeed is another story with more details and imagination involved.  She now felt her stomach tighten and she knew she needed to just be polite and proper.  Listen.  Let her parents do the talking.

There indeed was a need for a special conference, Mr. Goodin commented right away as he greeted and thanked them all for attending.  There on top of his desk was her STATE report that she had completed; her beautiful penmanship every other line for 3 full pages.   Mr. Goodin began, “This is some of the most wonderful writing I have ever read from a student.  I wanted you all to come in so I could share what a talent and gift this girl has and encourage you to find a creative writing class for an extracurricular activity.   I know they are hard to find, but the gifted student’s teacher is running a class in summer school this year and I was hoping you could sign her up for this experience?”

Her parents indeed were excited to hear this news and shared that they had been concerned that she was a behavior problem, or lazy, or always reading during class some novel, or that she just never did her math homework; she just stared into space for hours at the dining table and never completed it.  They were a bit pleased that she had done something well.   They could not possibly sign up one child for a special class showing favorites over the older children, and were planning to teach summer school themselves at University, “We will be out of State all summer; our vacation is camping on the trip from here to there and back.   She can just practice writing in the car.”

Indeed her eyes could not be removed off the report and the beautiful letters.   Mr. Goodin had his thumb resting on the top of two paragraphs near the bottom of the visible page, should she tell him that she had copied those two paragraphs about the facts of her state, directly from her mother’s set of Encyclopedia at home?   When Mr. Goodin said that her writing was so advanced should she tell him that she had copied those two paragraphs directly word for word? Her foot curved round the chair leg, and she put her hands, which had written the beautiful letters on the pages and had copied two paragraphs, neatly onto her lap.   She had agreed with herself to just keep quiet and be still, this still seemed best.

Mr. Goodin indeed enthused some more about how advanced her writing was and that he hoped her parents would encourage her.   As they all stood to leave, her mother said, “We could never encourage her to be a writer, singer or in the theater, because that is no life for a person, and we do so thank you for your kind words.   What do you say to Mr. Goodin, dear?”

“Thank you very much.”

The whole family celebrated with a small toast with a glass of tomato juice before dinner.

Indeed in Grade 6, Mrs. Blanco taught her class about quotation marks, footnotes and sourcing their material for their COUNTRY reports.   This time she felt very guilty for not confessing her error of copying.

Forty years later, she indeed still feels that transgression every time she writes.   She wonders why her parents never thought to say that her writing might be a bit advanced for her age, because she had read the whole set, each book in turn, of her mother’s encyclopedia, when she was 6?  But then again they needed to be fair; her siblings could not read well at all.

Now indeed in the computer age her penmanship is still beautiful and elegant, and she tells her self, every time she writes that her words are beautiful; indeed this is enough.

Did you ever have a special teacher conference for something you did well?  Did your parents and family encourage you with your talents?   How was your penmanship then and now?  Does it communicate who you are?

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34 Responses to “Fanciful Quotation Marks”

  1. Dot Says:

    I was always told that I was not living up to my potential. It’s still true, and I still don’t know what the heck one is supposed to do about it. Those idiotic ideas about the arts were so strong back then, weren’t they. I’m glad you’ve overcome most of that so you can do what you want!

    Patricia Reply:

    I’m back from working my little job and it feels wonderful to find everyone here and sharing stories.

    I am still having trouble figuring out what I want! but there is a great freedom to have put in the due diligence and with age understanding choice.

    Patricia Reply:

    You were not living up to their expectations of your potential…now you can live up to YOUR potential!

  2. Betsy Wuebker Says:

    Hi Patricia – I was riveted by this story. No, take that back, I became the little girl in the story. Your gifts as a writer do that for me on a regular basis. What a mixed bag of feelings coming out of the teacher conference!

    I received a devastating analysis on an essay I wrote on an e.e. cummings poem in college. I didn’t realize the book from which I made my selection had only included one stanza of the poem. My mistake was used to illustrate to the entire class the dangers of not paying attention to detail. Or something. Truly, I am still so embarrassed by that, even though my name wasn’t mentioned, I repress/suppress most of it. I think it was the same year another prof wrote on a Shakespeare essay I submitted, “You say nothing, but you say it very well.” Ouch! Shortly thereafter I switched my major from English, and the realm of teaching was made forever safe from any practitioner’s attempt on my part. 😀

    Penmanship. I took a calligraphy class in my early twenties that changed my handwriting. It turned more angular and evenly spaced, and gets lots of compliments.

    Thanks for a great post.
    .-= Betsy Wuebker´s last blog ..Beautiful Autumn in Fly-Over Land =-.

    Patricia Reply:

    Folks just do not realize how important it is what we say to others, especially when someone is in an authority position.

    I try to be very careful what I say to children and get better with age…and sorting.

    Thank you for you kind words about this story. It was one I wrote quite a while ago and took from 3,000 words down to it’s 900 word form. I thought it turned out better – and when I was reading so many pages and analyzing data for grant evaluations my creative juices just would not flow…

    My handwriting on the evaluations forms could have come from any doctor’s script….!!! it was hard to read and I thought twitter might have trained some of my wordiness out of me?? but then I had to do it in pencil in case my team would not approve of what I said and I had to change it. Pencils are not so fun any more!
    .-= Patricia´s last blog ..Fanciful Quotation Marks =-.

  3. Talon Says:

    Sometimes our talents and skills get overlooked and underappreciated. It’s nice that you have that memory to draw on…from the teacher’s perspective and not from the parent’s perspective. I guess parents don’t always do the right thing – even when their hearts are in the right place.

    Isn’t it funny that we always think the best when a conference is called? It’s happened with me, as a child, and with my children where it was something good and nothing negative at all…but still we wrack our brains thinking “what did we do that was so bad?”
    .-= Talon´s last blog ..Maybe =-.

    Patricia Reply:

    My parents were both teachers and I think they projected worry over conferences more than their children. With my youngest child parents were demanding conferences because they wanted the teacher to know how special their child was and if they could they would transfer their precious to private school in a minute.

    Although this is only about 40% memoir, my intention was to capture that moment when someone found something special about a child and the child did not know if it was true or not?
    .-= Patricia´s last blog ..Fanciful Quotation Marks =-.

  4. Hilary Says:

    Hi Patricia .. great story .. I certainly didn’t fit that bill .. the praise was limited, because I wasn’t as far as school was concerned remotely ‘bright’ … seems I’m making up for time now!

    I did read a lot .. but don’t remember much of it ..

    Thanks for this reminder .. Encyclopedias still to read .. ?!

    Enjoy the week .. and hope today went off (is going off ok) .. all the best – Hilary
    .-= Hilary´s last blog ..A letter character- to words- to language to fonts ABCs again! to Stephen Fry and Kinetic Typography =-.

    Patricia Reply:

    Yesterday went off so well, I was rather “high’ all evening and happy dancing – though am exhausted today from the intensity and wishing the job could continue. With all the rejection letters pouring in, this job was reassuring that I still had it in me to do good/great work.

    I was forgotten in school most of the time, and was extremely quiet and was supposed to be protecting my older sister who worked so hard to read and just could not seem to master it. I could not do math (no one knew about dyscalcula then) but was thought to just be lazy and like other girls who thought math was stupid.

    I am having some delightful things happen as I age….by practicing sudoko and doing the books for our family and business for so many years….I am starting to understand some things about math….someone asked what 1/4th of a quarter was and for the first time in my life 1/16th popped in my head and I knew I was right….I also felt like happy dancing, but that would have been inappropriate at the time…

    I now read the Internet and discern, rather than reading Encyclopedias!

    Give me a day to catch up here and I will be over to read your latest
    .-= Patricia´s last blog ..Fanciful Quotation Marks =-.

    Val Reply:

    I also have dyscalculia and when we lived in London, I did all the household accounts! It was hard, I had to double and treble check everything, but I managed.

    I did a short course basic maths for people with learning difficulties many years ago and discovered that what was happening was I couldn’t ‘see’ (interpret) the numbers properly and had to keep repeating everything. It helped. I’m still pretty lousy with it, but I do manage.
    .-= Val´s last blog ..Bittersweet – Valerie Valera =-.

    Patricia Reply:

    Oh Val,
    How nice to know someone else with this dilemma. It is so hard to explain to folks that you are working as hard as you can but it doesn’t make any more sense today than it did yesterday.

    I think I am very, very lucky that I found a fellow who understood to teach me how to drive and how fortunate that my father was able to teach me how to swim….but distance and space are so difficult – yesterday this big truck just honked and honked behind me and I just had to wait and follow the rule to make a safe turn – my learned rule “Horn works try your lights”

    I think you are wonder full to be able to figure out the computer and photo shop and I had to stop doing music when it became all math…I can just sing and I can just write…I hope IT Girl does not grow weary of me..

  5. vered | blogger for hire Says:

    I agree with Betsy. You’re a gifted writer.

    My penmanship is horrible. I blame it on the computer age!
    .-= vered | blogger for hire´s last blog ..Sharing The Wealth- Free Yogurt Coupons =-.

    Patricia Reply:

    So many of the grant readers were talking about how much their hands hurt after writing with pencil and paper their evaluations…they are so used to tapping stuff out on the computer….what they now take for granted.

    A number of kids I work with for reading and writing can not write cursive at all and have never been taught…thus they can not read it either.

    Ah and I use a dictation program I am learning and wish I could get on my cell phone….because I find texting too hard when my hands are in full tremor

    Patricia Reply:

    Thank you for you lovely words Vered about my writing…you are always so kind.

  6. Jannie Funster Says:

    Nope, never had a conference for anything.

    My penmanship is labored, always has been. That’s why typing is such a joy and seems the correct speed for my thoughts.

    Lovely writing, Patricia!

    .-= Jannie Funster´s last blog ..Pulling A Neil Young =-.

    Patricia Reply:

    Thank you for your kind words!

    I thought I might be someone who wrote lovely letters to my friends and lovers all my life…now you are just about the only person I know who writes such wonderful letters with beautiful stamps…

    I do find with the onset of social media the art of letter writing is not practiced…with any flare or polish…Wit seems to be thriving and that is great.

    Ah but you write such great songs….you have found your genre?

    I do so love this new dictation program I am learning…but it does not keep up with my thinking yet….and that makes it cumbersome – “yet” is the operative and operator’s word

  7. Jannie Funster Says:

    I mean xO. :)
    .-= Jannie Funster´s last blog ..Pulling A Neil Young =-.

    Patricia Reply:

    Hugs all round….

  8. Davina Haisell Says:

    LOL… Jannie! :-)

    Patricia, you write with a lot of humility and sensitivity. It draws me in to your story because I can empathize.

    My mother was excellent at encouraging my sisters and I in school. At the end of the school year when I graduated from grade 6 she gave each of the three of us a new bike because we’d done so well. My penmanship used to be excellent — I won first place in a contest in grade two when our class was learning how to write. Now? It’s not so pretty, lol.
    .-= Davina Haisell´s last blog ..A Young Woman’s Dance =-.

    Patricia Reply:

    Thank you for your kind words here….this is a story I wrote earlier before blogging and when I was analyzing so much material, numbers and actions, my creative juices came to a halt so I pulled this out of the hat and cut it down to blog size.

    I still don’t think I could take it down to tweet size!

    I think penmanship needs practice and practice and what do we practice these day? Typing!

    OH how lucky you were to have encouragement and a bike for such good efforts…Hip Hip Hurray for your mum’s efforts and your good responses.
    Thanks for sharing your story, it made me feel warm and good.

  9. suzen Says:

    Hi Patricia! Very good story – and boy doesn’t it remind everyone of something – either as a parent or student! I was in a very small, very strict Catholic school for grade school and penmanship was pounded into us as something graded on and boy oh boy you’d best practice! I did, and did well, but could not WAIT to develop my own brand of adult writing, which I have! I took calligraphy yrs ago and did wedding invitations and announcements on the side. Like a smile, I still think nice penmanship counts!

    Patricia Reply:

    Oh how lucky you were to be able to turn your penmanship lessons into an art form – that is a talent in itself.

    Just as a smile communicates so does our written expressions and when we use pen and paper it speaks volumes even today.

    I will be over to read your new post soon, I am playing catch up right now and being gentle with myself – yesterday’s discussions were extremely intense and I am tired.

  10. Barbara Says:

    I enjoyed this post, Patricia, it brought back a lot of mixed memories about life as a child in school. My parents discouraged any thoughts of pursuing a career in acting, singing, painting or writing, too. I know they were concerned with financial stability. But my grandparents and several of my teachers encouraged me to be a writer, and I am forever grateful for the positive self-esteem their support gave me.

    None of my parent-teacher conferences stand out but all my teachers usually said the same thing: that I was a perfect, straight-A student who never gave them any trouble. Their major complaint was that I was painfully shy and never participated in class discussions. (And this is still true, most social situations are overwhelming for me.) My parents couldn’t believe this because I never shut up at home. :)

    Had to laugh at the penmanship question! Again, at school I tried very hard to make my cursive letters exactly like the model penmanship in the books and above the blackboard. Everyone said my penmanship was beautiful. But in my teens I decided that it hurt my hand muscles too much trying to conform to that model. So I let my hand relax and form the letters the way it wanted to. It’s still legible but natural and no longer “beautiful.” So I think it does communicate who I am, because I love things natural and not made-up. They used to call me the “Ivory Girl” (Ivory, as in the soap commercials). Definitely not glamorous!
    .-= Barbara´s last blog ..First Snow =-.

    Patricia Reply:

    Your writing about the first snow is lovely and just took me away – Thank you for sharing. It has been a long, long time since I was in your part of the world.

    I think our writing does communicate who we are and is shaped like us and how we have lived. Children do not have to learn such things any more…now they have to learn not to copy and past from the Internet!

    I believe I worked at being un noticed at school and too had lots to say at home – got louder when no one listened!
    I was laughing at myself at the final meeting of my grant evaluation job…I think my team thought I would never close my mouth!!! I just had so much to say and share and to have a whole room (25 people) all interested in what I had to say rather fueled me….I was high all evening.

    What a lovely compliment – the “ivory girl” – pure and just yourself.
    Thank you for commenting and dropping by.

  11. Lisa@Practically Intuitive Says:

    Hi Patricia,

    Like everyone has said, great story! I love my handwriting now but back in (Catholic!) grade school, it was not quite up to standards. In fact, my Aunt used to chide me (a child, mind you!) about what messy handwriting I had. (Yes, she was a peach.)

    Looking at my 20+ years of journals, I can totally see how my writing has chanced from era to era but also what state of mind I was in when I wrote it. Lots to glean from it.

    Hope you’re well!

    Patricia Reply:

    Oh I never thought about how our handwriting changes with our ages and processes in life…..people seemed to have trouble understanding what I was saying when I spoke and so I wanted my writing precise and beautiful so they would understand what I was trying to communicate.

    Last year I threw away all my old journals, after reading and studying them because I did not want my children to be burdened with them…and they were me conversing with me at those ages.
    I process and interpret my thinking mostly by talking – saying something out – but that needs a listener and so I began journaling to synthesize concepts and ideas when no one was there to listen – or I feel the need to be quiet.
    One of my children shared my journal when I was in college at a slumber party and the girls found it so funny and tried to tease me as though I were still 17 years. (They were into mean girl stuff) I handled it very well on the outside, but felt so violated I knew it was the right thing to let go of those words.
    (Some of those girls could not read cursive.)

    I am well and my intense job ended yesterday…I am working on catching up…thank you for dropping by and checking on me :) It is appreciated.

  12. Chris Edgar Says:

    Hi Patricia — I definitely felt compassion when you said that you still cringe when you think about how you copied the encyclopedia — it’s interesting, isn’t it, how we sometimes don’t forgive ourselves for things we do when we’re so young, as if we weren’t allowed to experiment or make mistakes even then.

  13. Patricia Says:

    Hey Chris,
    Thank you for stopping by…although this story is only partial memory, you have picked up on the feelings that I so wanted to convey. When your parent is a perfectionist sometimes those feelings are hard to sort out.

    My older brother is quite ill right now and I can see how his perfectionism up against my mother’s perfectionism has never been sorted out or figured out….I fear he has never accepted himself…it reminded me of this story I had written earlier – it was healing to glean it down to so few words.

  14. Katie Gates Says:

    What a beautiful, fascinating story. I hear they don’t teach penmanship anymore, and I find that sad. I was a stickler for the rules when I was young, and it took me until my very late teens to find the penmanship that suits me. I’ve always loved the act of pen on paper — even if I’m just doodling, the process relaxes me. I hate it when I’m having a “bad penmanship day.” Makes me feel very disconnected!

    Patricia Reply:

    Thanks for you good words…None of my kids had penmanship lessons…I think penmanship represents so much of what is going on inside us…that it is another thing we have to grow into and that takes practice, which I also see young people not wanting to undertake…I too feel disconnected with out pen to paper…or on days when my hands are too shaky now!

  15. Val Says:

    Patricia – apropos the computer and photoshop, I just put on the programs and teach myself. I do quite well with this sort of stuff, just numbers don’t work for me. Did you learn touch-typing? If so, do you do okay with the numerals? I failed at that part of it completely and still can’t hit the right numbers unless I look closely. Ditto numbers on calculators and telephone.

    I’ve some perceptual difficulties too – can’t judge the width of spaces and can’t perceive how steep a hill is.
    .-= Val´s last blog ..Bittersweet – Valerie Valera =-.

    Patricia Reply:

    I can not remember how to do envelopes on the computer and have to look it up in my Dummies book every time…and I can not turn off the editing/correcting mode so do not use it….On my Dragon Dictate I can not make voice corrections…just draft and then correct manually.

    I have a cheat card to back up my computer and writing every week and I do it wrong at least once a month …I can touch type and play the piano ( rhythms are all wrong) and I just made a $4,000.00 error on our medical forms for October….everyone just says I know you can do it/ but it is so hard and I get tired of being responsible

    If it is a phone number I call often, I can dial it if I do not think about it – it just pops in, but if my husband says tell me again ( he is slow …it is gone and I can not recall it – one thing I love about my cell phone) I can enter contacts on my cell phone and so folks think I am good at cell phone! I have the app. but can not do facebook on it…have to rethink how to do facebook daily before I get on – can not figure out many of the suggested things on FB…friends have to find me and I can not put my Network blogged thingy from FB on my blog which would bring more readers.

    2 absolutely terrifying things: #1 someone asking me to make a recipe to serve to other people and #2 skiing – even the thought of it.

    I can no longer ride a bike either…as we live with tons of hills and I can not tell about going down hill…

    Wow I have never had this conversation with someone who understand before…neat…Thanks

  16. Hilary Says:

    Hi Patricia and Val .. interesting to read about your dysacula .. I’m sure not easy to live with .. by the sound of it .. but good for us to learn about.

    Thanks – have good weekends .. Hilary
    .-= Hilary´s last blog ..Hanging Hooke =-.

    Patricia Reply:

    It was fun to have a discussion about dyscalcula and discover another adult with it….I know several children and young adults but not someone my age.

    The hardest thing about it is to try and get folks to understand…

    They just are sure they can teach you how to do something, until they get frustrated with you and then just think you are not so bright and lazy.