Figuring out where my love of letters originated

scrapbook of hand lettered type, 2015

My love of writing and reading came from my sister Noel who was my second mother. She read to me often as a child. I did the same with my children. When I was little we had a huge library in our little cold water flat in Connecticut. We lived by the railroad tracks and I would hear the train whistles blow every day at regular times. You would never know we were poor. We had books and art everywhere. My sister loved to read me English romantic poems. We memorized a lot of them. It was the print on the funny paper, the sound of the words, the languages in our house were English and French. They told me I spoke French before I spoke English. I switched to mostly English because my mom wanted to soak up everything I learned at school.
This is handy now that I’m learning Spanish. The written letters back then for me were more than shapes….they were a way out of our little barrio. They led me to being an excellent student with excellent grades. I learned Latin, French and how to diagram sentences with great skill. I worked as a stenographer in the ’70s. I took dictation and was a speed typist. My high school shorthand teacher was also a professional calligrapher. He taught us a lot and my eyes were glued when he demonstrated how he executed some of his formal documents. I often wondered what he was doing in this small town. I still wonder. He was very educated and distinguished. He would make us memorize sentences in our dictation exercises, beginning with short ones and progressing as the term went on to longer, complex ones. Believe it or not, it really helped train our teenage brains to learn to memorize and translate very quickly. Nobody teaches that way anymore.
When I was learning digital, I was working as a children’s librarian. I would do the html and thank God himself when I could put little pictures together with letters, words and sentences. Nothing has changed. It still fascinates me.

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