Boy one was recently applying for a passport. We came to a part of the documentation that required his signature. Perhaps it is worth explaining that by 13, I routinely spent time practicing my signature, up and down rows on lined paper. Just in case I was ever famous. I studied the signatures on the American Declaration of Independence. I noticed my parents signatures. And I practiced.
I understand that boy one is not me. Good news for him, I say. Reviewing his documents, I did not expect that he had laboriously practiced his signature, only that he had one. He did not.
Son, it says to write your signature on this line.
That is not a signature. That is a poorly printed name.
That’s how I do my signature.
That may be how you print your name, but that is not a signature. If that actually was your signature, you should make certain never to tell anyone that this is so. No, son. You must write. Cursive. Script. A signature must be written. It must be yours. It is your name.
Five. Full. Minutes. Later. Boy one returned with paper in hand.
Is this good?
I could tell he was trying. Before me was a name written in the fat, double size, extra tall cursive letters typical of nine year olds. There was nothing to say. The fact that his best was deplorable was at least as much my fault as his, I the guardian of his education.
The next time we had a free hour, I called them all. Ages 5 to 13, bring paper and pencils, I said.
We sat at the kitchen table. Playing with different script styles of capital letters. Comparing the look of size and slant for the lowercase letters. It took them about thirty seconds to be so absorbed they were hunched over their papers writing intently. Girl two usually only writes her first name. She practiced the others, while everyone else did cursive. Examples and more samples were eagerly pushed my way. The level of pride in the room rose as signatures began to take on shape and style. One child went so far as to get samples of famous signatures so everyone could see what they liked or didn’t like about different ones.
This is actually kind of cool, but can you imagine telling your friends, said Boy one. Like, what did you do yesterday? Oh, I learned to write my name. They laughed but they were proud. As well they should be. They are now people with signatures. People who know that their names are important.