When I was in my late twenties, I went back to finish high school. Upon graduating (yes, with a REAL diploma), I was awarded a $500 scholarship which I used to attend Henry Ford Community College.

Until that time, I had always loved to read, beginning with Trixie Beldon novels in the 2nd grade. When I was about 8 years old, my mother gave me my cherished pair of Bronte novels: Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, old hardbound versions that included woodcut prints that illustrated the text.

“Take me to the window, Heathcliff!”

I loved those novels, and began to read more and more. I especially loved English novels, Dickens, Austin, and then discovered the joys of poetry, as well. Emily Dickinson was my mother’s favorite; Mom was a bit melancholy, and her favorite poets wrote bleak, yet romantic verse.

So, it was after a lapse of a few years. . . where I dropped out of high school, partied every night, had a child and buckled down to raising him as a single mother. . . that I finally returned to school. It was at HFCC that I discovered what most avid readers already seemed to know: I loved to write as much as I loved to read.

I enjoyed every essay I was required to compose for each and every literature class, and I took an abundance of English classes. I received encouragement from each of my instructors, and my writing habits and style improved. I went on to the University of Michigan and earned my Bachelor’s Degree in English (of course), and I enjoyed every Shakespeare class, 18th, 19th, and 20th century literature course, and the assignments required by them all: writing essay after essay, some of which even earned me hundreds of dollars in contests.

Years later, I own my own web design company and work as a technical writer for a local engineering company. The other day, I was bemoaning the fact that I take no time to enjoy expressing myself in writing, any more. And I remembered something that deeply affected and encouraged me back in those first few semesters at HFCC.

In one of my classes, I wrote a paper upon which subject I expounded fluently, and I earned this high praise from the instructor, written in red across the top of the paper:

You do caress the language.

Whenever I am in doubt about my writing abilities, upset with the fact that I devote no time to the craft, sad that I am no longer expressing myself through poetry or prose, I remember those words of encouragement.

Thank you Dr. Daher, from HFCC. More than 15 years later, your words have inspired me, yet again. I am beginning a blog dedicated to “caressing the language.”

Katherine Billings Palmer


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