[Guest Post] The Princess and the Pens – Alethea Kontis
February 12, 2016 in Journal
I once received pens as a bridesmaid gift.
I you’re reading this post, you probably don’t find this as shocking as the rest of the attendees of that particular rehearsal dinner. Bridesmaids are supposed to get shiny, pretty things (and this was long before wearing tiaras was a regular occurrence). I opened the bag, gasped with joy, and proudly showed off my bounty…of office supplies. Where there had been oohs and aahs for the other girls in the wedding party, my display was met with complete silence.
“You just have to know her,” Margo explained to her guests while I giddily skipped back to my seat.
Margo and Casey and I found each other in the seventh grade. The Three Musketeers. Best friends forever. We were misfits of the mid-eighties, when it was *almost* cool to be an outcast. Our trio loved to write almost as much as we loved to read, and our correspondence reflected this.
We didn’t pass notes in class, we passed a NOTEBOOK.
It was really, quite clever, if you think about it. What teacher will stop you from passing a notebook to your friend in class, or stop you from writing in it? As a result, our letters often looked like class notes: jotted down in all sorts of different directions, highlighted in different colors, and bullet-pointed, complete with doodles in the margins. There were no rules—anything went.
I sign my books with some of those same doodles.
Margo’s handwriting was messy and scrawly. Casey’s was happy and round. Mine was that of an engineer’s daughter: often small and printed. The creativity came out in my pens. I loved experimenting with colors and thicknesses. Eventually I settled on a favorite—the Uniball ONYX. And then I received my first fountain pen.
Different colored ink was best thing about fountain pens. Where my D&D-playing friends had dice bags, I always had a bag full of ink cartridges. I liked writing in blue, then switching it out to green and watching as the ink transitioned through my writing. Granted, the transition switching to red was always a muddy brown, but I had too much fun writing my way through the rainbow to mind.
Switching unfinished cartridges also left its mark—hands stained with ink were always proof that I had been hard at work. These days I do most of my fiction writing on the computer, but after a book signing I’m often covered in a myriad of colors, and it makes me smile.
I reached the height of my letter-writing game the summer during high school that Casey was accepted to Governor’ School for the Arts and I wasn’t. Unlike the “anything goes” scattershot notebook of yesteryear, these letters were more formal and cohesive. Our trio had evolved to higher levels of expression…and boy, did we have some complicated, real-life emotions to express.
I wrote to Casey once or twice a week all summer, each letter in my trademark shifting ink. I then folded the paper, lit a candle, and melted crayons to make a wax seal. I forget what I used as a stamp for the impression—a ring? I didn’t wear many rings in those days, and I still don’t. I put the fancy sealed letter into the envelope, and then properly decorated the envelope before licking the stamps and sending it off.
Casey still has that stack of letters in her hope chest, a beautiful time capsule of days gone by in this modern age of ephemeral, ethereal emails.
I was actually thrilled at the advent of email—think of all the letters I could send! Instantaneously! Imagine the possibilities! I do miss those days of crayon wax seals, but I appreciate being able to write 30 emails and receive 10 replies in the time it would take to craft one of my Works of Letter Art. What makes me wistful is the thought of my fountain pens, dusty in a drawer somewhere with a dozen random cartridges of decades-old ink, a testament to bygone days and a reminder of something I’ve never stopped loving.
The Princess and the Pens: Best Friends Forever.