She’d move up and down the rows of desks, filled with tiny, crouched figures, hovering over lined paper and clutching #2 pencils. Filling the aisle with her middle-age width and Avon perfume, I’d feel the warmth of her body and breath as she leaned over me and sighed.
We’d been here before.
I just wasn’t getting this pencil-holding thing.
I thought I was doing it right. The letters on my paper looked pretty much like everyone else’s.
But every time she stopped at my desk, she’d gently, but very firmly cup her hand over mine and squeeze, until she forced my tiny, anxious fingers to curl around the long, yellow pencil with the well-worn pink eraser.
“A firm grasp,” she’d say, trying to sound patient about my substandard pencil holding ability, “is the key to proper penmanship, my dear.”
Not wanting to disappoint her – again – I’d clench that pencil as if my very breathing depended on it, until my fingers cramped from it, and the lead of the pencil pressed so hard against the paper that the letters bulged through the opposite side.
When she asked us to turn our papers over and sit quietly until everyone finished, I’d close my eyes and feel each raised letter with my fingertips.
Never wondering whether any one else had to press that hard.
Work that hard.
To form the letters and words which would help me write the sentences already anxious to burst forth.
I’ll be 53 in a few days.
And I still clutch my pencil ’til it hurts.
Squeezing out the letters, words, sentences still anxious to burst forth.