The Typewriter



The computer is resting casually on my knees – ubiquitous part of a calm, quiet afternoon at home; but once in a while my glance wonders off to the old typewriter… Oddly enough, the object belonging to such different times doesn’t make for a strange anachronism.

I wanted to take it apart as a child, even before I could read, that’s the first memory I have of the typewriter which had to be stored out of my reach, on the top shelf or in a hidden corner. Even if the characters it produced made no sense to me at that time, once I understood what it was used for, I immediately concluded it held the mystery of all the books I pestered my grandmother to read to me. She was the keeper of that great skill that allowed her to magically transform the gibberish on the page into words, into mesmerizing stories, but she didn’t feel like sharing this gift with me as much as I would have liked her to. So it only made sense that once I solved the puzzle of the typewriter – by taking it apart, of course – everything else would fall into place and I would learn all the secretes of those books my grandmother refused to read.

What can I say, the oddest of things can make sense to a child… My grandfather was the one to put an end to my destructive impulses, showing me that the typewriter is the source of new mysteries and in no way the solution to understanding the already existing ones, enclosed between book covers. Once in a while he’d write lectures, speeches or even some fairy-tales he had made up for me and those were the moments when I sat on his knees, while he typed and uttered the words out loud, so I’d know what the mystery maker was compiling. My grandmother rolled her eyes disapprovingly at what she considered to be a boring, useless activity, but I was fascinated by the eloquent discourse and the clicking of the keys.

It was a time auspicious for fast, radical changes and much like the typewriter, my grandfather became obsolete, lost and irrelevant after his retirement, losing his identity in the blink of an eye. The old and noisy typewriter would make itself heard occasionally, as it was trotted out for him to relive the glory of long forgotten days. But much like him, the mystery maker had lost its power and nobody would ever listen to the somewhat nonsensical words filling the pages that my grandmother would immediately deposit in the bin, muttering about wasted time and noisy typing devices.

But the old man would never accept that his trusty companion was no longer of use to anybody, having become the laughingstock of the contemporary world. He was dead set on reaffirming the relevance of the old device which had survived decades of changes, happiness and misery. So it became a habit for him to type invitations to all sorts of family events, invitations which my grandmother would surreptitiously throw out, telling him she had mailed them. It worked out fine, until one day when he decided to mail the invitations himself, thus offending his wife’s sensibilities. The infamous typewriter was immediately stored away in some obscure corner of the house – much like when I was child – and he was told it had suffered a bad fall and was no longer functional. The old man muttered for days. Much like everything else that accompanied him along his sinuous path to success, defining who he had once been, the typewriter had been suddenly taken away from him, without any possibility to be redeemed, because he no longer had the energy to fight for it.

I wasn’t quite sure why, but when I left for university I felt that the old typewriter had to go with me. Several years passed before it saw the light of day again, I had actually forgotten I had it. But it was such a pleasant surprise to eventually rediscover this childhood relic! From that moment on, it could finally live its retirement days in peace, in its own corner amongst old books and photo albums, receiving the appreciation and respect it always deserved.

“It gathers dust, but it looks very cute,” my mother very pragmatically noticed when she saw it. That may be the case, but the retired typewriter is so much more! It lives as a constant reminder that there still are instances when dreams come true and some persons can shape and control their destiny, reaching the peaks of success and achieving the goals they set for themselves. Yet life has a perverted sense of balance – or perhaps a sense of humour – pushing the same persons into the abyss without any warning. And there are cases when no amount of caution can save them. All we can do is enjoy our personal moments of glory and do our best to type a happier sequel to our sad stories of despair.

In response to WordPress Weekly Discover Challenge – Memory.

10 Replies to “The Typewriter”

  1. Wonderful Memories, Thank you so much for sharing them, now I will have to go to my parents and ask Dad for my Grandmother’s one. I used to use it to type my stories and letters, thank you for the memory, now where is it? …

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    1. Thank you 🙂 . It sounds like you’ve got great memories about your grandmother’s typewriter as well. I still have my grandfather’s, nicely displayed on a shelf. I intend to keep it, even if it doesn’t work properly anymore. It’s a wonderful piece of the past and I enjoy hearing the noise of the old keys, even it doesn’t actually type anything these days.

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  2. Learning to type was something of a rite of passage for me; my parents wouldn’t let me touch the typewriter until I learned to touch-type. My first was a very old typewriter much like the one in your photo, but in high school (back in the 1960s!) I got a portable typewriter I took to college with me. Still mechanical, of course. I sold it after college when I got married, because my new husband had this fancy electric typewriter. Today it’s all keyboards and computers, but the old mechanical skills still influence me. Everyone comments on how LOUD my typing is, and I figure it’s because of all those years pounding on the mechanical keys.

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    1. I’m often accused of loud typing as well, but I can’t blame on the typewriter – by the time I was in high school computers were already quite common. I know everybody complains about the noise a typewriter makes, but I love that sound. In a time of computers, tablets and smart phones, I’m glad I kept that old typewriter – it’s nice to hear that “noise” once in a while 🙂 .

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        1. No, I can’t find ribbons. It only has a very old one (I’m surprised it survived for so long), so I can still get a few faded letters out of it, for show, but no more than that 🙂 .

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