I’ve never shared this with my dad, but I thought the timing seemed appropriate since he recently launched his Facebook page: The Pensmiths.
When I was a kid, somewhere around the 6th grade, I noticed something about my dad that was different from most other people: his handwriting. I’m not even sure what made me notice, other than the fact that it was exceptional. But I remember thinking that I wanted to learn to write just like him.
My father did a lot of things really well. Not only was he the smartest person I knew, but he had a mean fastball; could rebuild a carburetor blind-folded; and shoot his limit of dove faster than anybody in town (with one arm tied behind his back). More than most boys growing up in small-town Oklahoma, it seems I had dozens of reasons to look up to my dad. And even though I attempted to emulate him in each of those things at some point in my childhood, for some peculiar reason it was his handwriting that piqued my curiosity at the age of 12.
Thinking back, it probably seemed strange to him, but I can remember asking my dad to write his name on a piece of paper, and then sitting at the kitchen table and slowly – deliberately – writing out his name in the best James W. Smith cursive penmanship I could manage. The fact that my dad was a leftie and I was a rightie didn’t make much difference; I was determined to master his signature (or at least improve my own).
Whether on a check, simple note, or birthday card, I recall that my dad never signed his name as if he was in a hurry to get on to something more important. His work with a pen was deliberate and intentional, and as a result, his signature consistently looked the same: strong – confident – respectable. It might sound strange to hear those words associated with someone’s signature, but as a 12 year old who was being instructed on the importance of a well-written and timely thank-you card, it gave me yet another reason to admire the man who could scrape his knuckles while rebuilding a carburetor, yet sign a thank-you card with the polish of respectability.
And so, it was no surprise to me, when twenty-two years ago, my father decided to crank up his lathe and determine whether he had the ability to discover something beautiful inside a block of wood. He found that the same precision and attention-to-detail which defined his life-time of measured signatures, is the same exactness required to transform a piece of wood in to a uniquely remarkable writing instrument.
Occasionally, Katherine reminds me that she likes my handwriting. Although I’m a bit critical of my own penmanship these days, I remind her that, I would likely not have a legible signature if not for the hard work of Mrs. Dixon and Mrs. Hill. And, of course, my father, who, among his many talents, appreciated and practiced the art of purposeful penmanship.
I hope you’ll visit his website: http://www.pensmiths.co.
If you order a pen, I guarantee he will include a hand-written thank you card – complete with his well-practiced signature.
For me, that alone would be worth the cost of the pen.
P.S. - I love you, Dad.