I wish I could talk to my paternal grandmother today.
I would ask her if she knew she was inspiring me when she gave me that tiny little notebook when I was in second grade or if leaving me her typewriter was intentional.
The notebook was about the size of a deck of cards, spiral bound, with a kitten on the cover. I used it to jot down stories of my day. One story I know was told within its small pages was that of our kitten, Ching, who ate tinsel off the Christmas tree. We knew this because tinsel was trailing from his back side.
A gross story, yes, but when you are 8, and you are the one who gets to tell it, it’s so very fun.
I kept diaries and journals and wrote letters, too, as a young girl, but I didn’t really feel like a writer until I had my first typewriter. Maybe my grandmother, known as “Ma” by everyone, somehow knew this. When she died, when I was 12, she left me her mechanical typewriter.
The words this cherished device typed in its halting way were smallish and set in italics, and because I single-spaced, the pages it produced were dense, and they were also always somewhat mottled with tell-tale splotches of White Out.
I had a built-in desk in my bedroom, and this is where the typewriter came to live. I would sit at my desk, looking out my front window, typing everything from letters to friends to creative assignments for school to rants, when I was angry.
I was proud of that machine with its slow and sticky keys. I fancied myself a writer, like John-Boy Walton, and I cranked many, many pages out of its rubber rolls. They seemed so much more important, more official, than anything I had written by putting pen to paper.
It was at this desk, at my typewriter, that I learned that writing was a great way to find one’s voice, and it was a great way to soothe the soul, too.
Whenever I had something I wanted to say to a friend, I wrote a letter. I could be so articulate that way. I was clear, and I felt heard.
I enjoyed writing thank you letters that other kids dreaded, and I always found a way to be creative in writing them. I added silly tidbits and factoids. In one thank you letter to my father’s friends, I told them how many sweat glands a cat has in its paws.
These letters always attracted notice or mention from my parents, and I loved that.
I wish I knew what had happened to my typewriter, and more importantly, I wish I still had it. I would love to thunk on its tiny keys. I’d use it for writing thank yous and silly notes.
I would use it to write to my father and tell him that his mother had helped me become a writer.
He would love knowing that.
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