According to the nuns who taught me, and anyone who has ever tried to read my chicken-scratch, my handwriting is hopelessly awful.
That said, I love the idea of letter-writing --sitting down at a cozy desk with lots of cubby holes, the rustle of scented, textured paper, melting wax sensually dripping onto an envelope, stamping the still-warm puddle with a baroque rendering my initial -- the beauty of the ritual just gets to me.
So it is small wonder that the ebony exterior and warm, lamp-lit windows of the stationery shop, Melodies Graphiques, in the 4th beckoned during my entire last visit to Paris in December. Finally I succumbed to the siren's call.
As the door bell tinkled, I told myself that I wasn't a fraud. I was Christmas shopping for my friends with epistolary leanings. I actually know people whose handwriting is not tragic.
And, oh,what a treat for the senses this shopping expedition turned out to be. Beautiful hand-drawn Christmas cards bearing whimsical images of Pere Noel in a horse-drawn sleigh. Italian paper sold by the sheet. Colored pencils displayed like bouquets of exotic flowers in glass jars and vases. Sealing wax in colors undreamed of by Crayola. Pots of gold, silver, copper and bronze dust with which to gild the seal. Family tree certificates, as intricately illustrated as the Book of Hours, just waiting to be personalized with calligraphic flourishes.
If so inclined, one can study the fine art of calligraphy here. Various graceful styles are presented for perusal on heavy creamy stock. How grand.
And I feel the flicker of possibility. Perhaps, if I put my mind to it ... and practice enough I could learn to write like this ... and play the harpsichord ... and make my own cheese .. and speak French fluently.
I realize where this is headed and reluctantly put back the calligraphy kit in its own lovely cherry wood box.
But I don't leave empty handed. I buy one of the handmade cards -- suitable for framing -- and one of those lovely family trees. I have been spending a little time on Ancestry.com after all.
As for the calligraphy to fill it in ... well, you can pay people to do that for you you know.
10, rue du Pont Louis-Philippe