Writing to Grace: a fountain pen, stationery, and a holiday tradition

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My first fountain pen came when I was an adolescent. It was paired with red sealing wax and a stamp with my surname initial. I corresponded with Grace, a friend who lived just a bit too far away to have my parents drive me there to visit because we had moved to a suburb from the small city neighborhood where Grace and I had played “school” and “house.” I asked for stationery as gifts—the kind with a linen finish or maybe with subtle border art at the top. Of course, I wanted to share my thoughts and to update her on the trivia of my life. The fountain pen and linen paper gave me the physical pleasure of having my own writing ritual.

Take the cap off of a fountain pen and affix it to the bottom. The weight of the right fountain pen will be balanced in your hand. It will feel more substantial than a ballpoint or felt-tipped pen. Don’t grip it too tightly. The ink is fluid and wants to flow from the nib with a gentle guidance. Let it flow with your thoughts.

A fountain pen learns about you. The nib adjusts to the angle and movement of your hand. A fountain pen becomes more dedicated to its owner with each use. No one else uses a pen at exactly the angle that you do and with exactly the same movement and pressure in writing, so it’s a personal possession that cannot be shared (and you have the excuse that sharing it would ruin it; no exaggeration).

My favorite fountain pen these days is a Parker Sonnet with a gold nib, made in France. I prefer blue ink over black. My letter paper is from The Chatsworth Collection, gray with a darker gray header that includes only my name in a semi-script font. The envelopes have my address on the back flap. When I make the time, I write to friends and people in my family with this paper and that fountain pen. A fountain pen slows down the writing process. It gives me time to reflect before the words pour onto the paper. I am sure that writing by hand makes correspondence more personal: Our handwriting conveys part of our personality.

I have been writing to Grace for sixty years, and she has been writing to me for just as long. We now live over 2,600 miles apart. We have certainly become more reflective than we were at the age of fifteen. To be clear: We have only seen each other a few times in these intervening years. But we still share an appreciation for a handwritten letter—not just as a recipient, but also as a sender. We are still friends in a special meaning of the word.

Again this holiday season, I will write to Grace. Her birthday is just a week before Christmas, so my best wishes for the coming year will be more about that than the official holiday. I will share with her my recent joys and the most salient of my trials and travails. I will look forward to her letter and to catching up on what is going on in her life. My days of applying sealing wax and pressing a stamp to the envelope have passed. But the pleasure of writing to her with a fountain pen will always remain.

Patricia

Patricia is the author of a wide range of essays that span narrative, persuasive, and informational approaches. She believes that most writing benefits from an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on knowledge acquired over decades of diverse learning endeavors.

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