As a child struggling to keep some letters straight in my mind such as b and d, and p and q, it was a relief and delight to find that the first letter of my last name presented no such problem. Capital letters were less difficult than lower case anyway, but the H was special. Just like I, O, and X, the H was the same top to bottom, right to left, and even backwards in the mirror! I did not have to dread getting it confused.
Back in the mid-1950s no one in my neighborhood or school knew anything about dyslexia. I struggled and struggled and struggled – and still got letters wrong. Teachers said I needed to try harder. How much did they want? It was exhausting simply to try to figure out which word was ‘saw’ or ‘was.’ ‘No’ and ‘on’ were a little easier, their meanings were more clearly different by their use in sentences, but still…
If someone in a story was watching something then the word was most likely ‘saw.’ ‘Was’ simply had no image accompanying it to help me. But I had to stop reading and think each time I came to either of those words, which meant I was a “slow” reader.
I was “slow” because I had to think twice as much as the other kids!
I was startled one day to notice that the word ‘bed’ actually looked like a bed with equally tall head and foot boards. It was easy to draw a blanket hanging over the sides. From that time on when I was confused by d or b (and sometimes still am), I remember the ‘bed’ and can tell which one is which.
So, the capital H was a relief, a source of comfort and even delight – and it was MINE!
How else would my family name of ‘Herrmann’ begin?
Yet, when I started school, in First Grade, and began to learn to write, I thought my name (first and last) was impossibly long. I had cousins with much shorter names: Boaz, and Lutz. And, in my class, other children had shorter names: Anno, Brown, Coombs, Dyer, Iwig. Of course, I never considered Wulfkhuhle, and hadn’t met the Phannensteil’s yet.
We had to write our names in really large letters across the top line of the page and I could not fit al my name onto that one line. To do so became my goal, but spacing was a problem. I remember the first time I achieved that goal, my letters became narrower and narrower until, by the time I reached the m, there wasn’t much space between its legs – and I still had three more letters to go! The a became very squished together, then the two n’s ended up with less space between the legs than the width of the big, fat pencil I had to use. But you could see the spaces between them. I was exhausted from the concentration, but proud of my achievement!
Decades later, when my grandmother’s house was being emptied, my aunts found that paper and returned it to me. The memory of the struggle to write my impossibly long name came rushing back to me! It was like yesterday!
As I learned to spell my name, and we began to write smaller letters with smaller pencils, the writing of it became easier and I had no more problems fitting it all onto one line.
I still enjoy the capital H, though. It is the same right to left, top to bottom and even backwards in a mirror!