My mother was given a typewriter for one of her birthdays. I don’t remember if it was something she wanted and asked for or if it was something her overly practical mother thought would make an ideal present. At any rate my mother had this typewriter which came with its own protective case and everything. It wasn’t a fancy typewriter by any means. It was an Underwood manual typewriter to be exact; you know the kind with the carriage return lever than you pushed in order to move down a line?
I don’t recall her using it while I was growing up because it didn’t have a correction ribbon or any of the other features that were available. I do recall being told it was not a toy when she would pull the case out of her closet during the spring or fall clean ups that she was so famous for carrying out. During this time, my mother would pull up everything but the carpet and the floorboards in her zest to clean things up.
She would unearth these treasures and artifacts from a time long gone by and I would marvel at them and wonder why she’d insist that I “do not touch” any of these items. I could “look, but do not touch” all I wanted. Until she put them away again to be hidden and unearthed with the next major clean up. By the time she would be back to pulling out these objects, I would have forgotten about their existence and would once again marvel at them.
During one of her clean ups, probably after me carrying on about wanting to “touch one key of the typewriter and I promise I won’t hurt it” sessions she relented and put some plain white paper into. She rolled the paper up and she showed me how to be very careful with the keys because if you hit too many at one time they would get stuck together right near the paper and you’d have to unstick them, which meant ink on your fingers.
I still remember the magic of that, simply pressing the key (it took more pressure than I had thought it would) and seeing the letter appear on the page. I spent the rest of that day pushing keys to type things out. My poor mother spent precious time refilling my paper, spelling words and showing me how to use the return lever (not too hard or it would fly off the machine).
I learned how to type, well my initial learning anyway, on that typewriter with my mother’s blessed patience. To this day, I am a rather heavy typist, having learned the amount of pressure to strike the keys from that one typewriter. Beloved and coworkers have all commented on how they can hear me typing from down the hallway, especially when I’m caught up in typing something. Someone told me it’s incredible to hear the speed at which I strike the keys and how rarely he heard me make a correction with my typing. Imagine my surprise when an Underwood typewriter, very similar to my mother’s appeared on the table in the house the other day. Thoughtfully, it had been outfitted with fresh ribbons and a ream of fresh paper awaited me eager hands.
The dog and Beloved decided outside was the safe place to preserve their hearing as I typed a letter to a friend rather than sending off an email. Sure the letter will take longer to reach her, and sure the font is limited to just what the stamped keys have been formed to match, but there’s something special about this manual process and since I have the handwriting of a doctor (not all doctors, but imagine one at the end of super busy shift where thousands of notes have already been written) a typewriter is pretty much handwriting for me!