Family of Three

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No, we don’t have a kid. Nor will we for the foreseeable future.

I’ve discovered I need to clarify that as often as possible.

But we do have a typewriter.

The typewriter belonged to a faculty member at Undisclosed University who, after a long and successful career as a teacher, had decided to retire. She is a published author, and as far as I know hasn’t given up on writing (she just released a new novel in the past year and has a contract with one of the larger publishing houses). At the end of this semester, she put out a table in the hallway outside of her office and started piling up books that she no longer wanted so passers by could take them away to good homes.

I walked away with an armload every time I walked by. My husband (a graduate assistant at UU) had his office right across from her, and gathered a few books for himself as well. We’re not the kind to pass up on free books.

One afternoon I came home to find my husband parked at the dining room table brooding over a large metal object. He looked up at me, beaming.

“Look what I found!”

I looked. Before him was a large mechanical typewriter. It was in stellar condition. The word “ROYAL” was stamped in large silver letters above the keyboard.

That scene from You’ve Got Mail popped into my head: Meg Ryan coming home to what’s-his-face, the columnist, toying with a new typewriter at the kitchen table, and she points out that it’s only one of several.

“It was Mrs. Page’s,” he told me. “It’s in perfect condition.”

“Mrs. Page’s?” I gasped. She’s a published author. I took her introductory Creative Writing course when I was a sophomore in college. Her novels are excellent; she’s personal hero of mine.

We own her typewriter. The typewriter she used to draw up her first published manuscript. I don’t put much stock in the concept of luck, but I feel that surely now that I have her magical typewriter, anything written in this house is blessed with success by the spirit of the beautiful woman whose novels have touched so many hearts.

The typewriter is our baby. By “our,” I mean my husband’s. He found the user’s manual online in PDF format and studied it on and off for days. He bought a new ribbon for it on eBay. He sent hours figuring out how to set margins and indents–even how to make columns and line spacing. I found index cards with snippets of typed phrases scattered in odd places around our apartment for weeks.

“Look at it,” he said once or twice, “there’s no wires, no circuits, nothing! One hundred percent mechanical!” He’d hammer down a few keys, each keystroke sounding like the rapport of machine gun fire. “I want to use it to type out my papers next year.”

I made a mental note to buy some ear plugs.

So far this summer, it has sat quietly in a wicker chair, waiting the day it will move into my husband’s new office. But for now it waits, it’s mechanical calm encompassing so many of our hopes and dreams. For my husband, it seems to symbolize the possibilities and promise of a new semester at seminary. For me, it represents writing, and the hope that with a little determination and a little effort, I can be finish something, shove it over a transom, and hope for the best.

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2 responses »

  1. OK, this was just all kinds of wonderful!! 🙂 I could totally picture the excitement, the concentration on learning how to work it, the typed snippets on index cards lying around. Loved it! Yep, all of my papers from both high school and college were typed on a typewriter, but only the earliest ones were on a mechanical one. After that, I used an electric typewriter (because I was just so cutting edge!) It’s a wonder that we managed to write anything of any quality when corrections and revisions were so much work. But it’s still fun and nostalgic to think about those “olden days”!

    And, just have to say this….cute title! Made my heart jump just a little when I first saw it! Lol! 😉

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