You are currently browsing the daily archive for May 3, 2011.

In my new job, I do a lot of editing, mostly of my own writing or things I’ve adapted from our internal proposal library.  I don’t edit as well on-screen as I do from hard-copy – maybe I’m old-fashioned.  But at editing time, I leave cube-land and go curl up in a quasi-armchair, iPod going, San Pellegrino at hand.  My co-workers know my routine now. 

I usually use a red pen and don’t think twice about it. But today, on my quest for a highlighter, I found a box of red pencils.  Cool, I thought, I’ll take a red pencil.  It sharpened up to a killer point, and I sat down to work.  And suddenly, I was overcome.

Back when I was growing up, the universe had switched over to ballpoint pens only fairly recently.  People still used fountain pens.  The latest and greatest writing instrument innovation was the Flair pen.  My father always had half a dozen on his “butler”.  The red ones were my favorite – in fact, that’s what I used to write my numbers on the pale green wall above the sofa early one Sunday morning.

But teachers back in those days of yore did not use pens.  They used – you guessed it – red pencils.  As I held this innocuous instrument in my hand today, I was transported into the skins of my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Jones, and my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Woods.  And into my own little 6-year-old self, getting back papers with red pencil marks on them.  Gold foil seals for a perfect paper,

 red seals for great,

 and blue seals for good work.

OK, not quite that kind of blue seal, but you get the picture.

Yes, having that red pencil in my hand gave me some kind of strange, secret teacher-power that I had never been able to tap into, only be subjected to by others throughout my early life.  It was a really interesting feeling.  I loved it.

So to all of you long-ago teachers and childhood authority figures, I now understand you a little bit better.  But I will use my new-found power with compassion and impunity.  And I think I’m going to stock up on colorful stickers.

Photo title:  White Bay at Dusk

White Bay, Jost van Dyke, British Virgin Islands.

Quote of the day: “I steer my bark with hope in my heart, leaving fear astern.”  —  Thomas Jefferson

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