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I have terrible handwriting. These letters were proof that I never progressed beyond that C- I got in penmanship on my Grade 4 report card. I should have been embarrassed to send these to my mother. She had beautiful cursive handwriting with great, swelling sweeps of M’s and tight, straight lines of T’s. It was beautiful. How did she ever have the patience to decipher these cramped words I squeezed on aerograms? After all these years, I felt like an archeologist discovering a new language … but it was mine. Finally I appreciated the remark my sister, Susie, made to me when she got one of these letters: “I can’t make out whether you’re having a “lovely” time or a “lonely” time.” I told her it was probably both.

The Olivetti saved the words

But fortunately for my mother and me, most of the letters were typed. I had use of one of those classic Olivetti typewriters during my travels. ¬†Having been a star pupil in Office Practice at St. Francis De Sales High School, I could whiz by on those keys. As I read my almost-mistake-free letters, I even begrudgingly thanked my Grade 9 nun-teacher who yanked me out of the “academic” stream and plunked me into “Office Practice” because I should have known that all working class girls had to learn to type. The problem with the typed letters was that I could read everything … even the bits that made me cringe. These could have been hidden within my bad handwriting forever, never to be read again. But here they were now, pointing a shameful finger at me.

Could I just ignore those bits if I ever wrote these stories?