A Writer is Born – Or How I Ruined My Own Christmas

“I want to be a writer” I would tell my mother when I was just a girl.

“Be a secretary”, she said “you’ll get to wear pretty dresses and you won’t get all dirty.  You’ll always have a job.”  Obviously, my mother was not very liberated, and she couldn’t have predicted the effect technology would have on what she considered a glamorous profession.  She had worked very hard – hard physical labor – starting as a very young woman, and she wanted better for her daughters.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

When I was 10 years old I wanted a typewriter, because I felt I needed one to really become a writer.  I knew that money was scarce for our large family, and Christmases were sometimes quite lean.  Sometimes there would be gifts with multiple names on them – meaning they had to be shared with siblings.  Those were my least favorite gifts of all.  But, oh, I wanted a typewriter so badly…I didn’t want dolls, or stuffed animals, or games or clothes.  Just a typewriter.

So you would think the girl opening that typewriter on Christmas morning in 1965 would have been the happiest girl in the world, right?  WRONG.  For I knew that typewriter would be opened that morning, and I hated every minute of knowing.

I had been putting away laundry in my parents room, and hanging up some clothing when I saw the bag of toys on the floor of the closet.  I knew I shouldn’t look, but I couldn’t resist the temptation.  There it was – the typewriter (a toy one, but a typewriter none-the-less).  I was so thrilled.  That joy was short-lived, however.

I would lie awake at night, worried that my parents knew I had snooped.  Worried that I wouldn’t be able to act surprised and would be exposed as a Christmas-time cheater.  I was worried that the typewriter would be one of the shared gifts, or worse yet, not even designated for me.  I worried that my guilt would be uncovered and I would be punished.  I about worried myself sick.

I remember the present opening that morning.  I tentatively ripped the paper away from the box with my name on it.  There it was, the object of my desire.  And it was mine, all mine!  I tried to look surprised, innocent, and thrilled when the snapshot was taken, but I am not sure I pulled it off completely.

The typewriter was clunky and cumbersome.  The letter keys did not work, you had to turn the dial to the desired letter or number and then jam down hard on one of the keys at the bottom of the keyboard.  It had a little inked ribbon and came with a packet of paper that I promptly used up.  I wore that little ribbon out.

I am not sure whatever happened to the typewriter – I either outgrew it or it broke.  I had started writing in notebooks, anyway, they were a lot more portable and definitely quieter.  I was known to stay up way past bedtime reading or writing, often under the blankets with a flashlight.

I spent some years working as a secretary before going to nursing school, and as my mom had predicted, I wore lots of pretty dresses and didn’t get very dirty.  But I never, ever, went looking for presents again.

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29 Comments

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29 responses to “A Writer is Born – Or How I Ruined My Own Christmas

  1. For some reason there is no text. Hate that you would have somehow ruined your own Christmas. But a writer being born sounds like a good thing.
    Kathy

  2. Well, I don’t know where it went….and I can’t rewrite it tonight, I am packing for a trip. I’ll have to try to find the text, and the cute picture of me at 10…

  3. Can’t wait now…. see, there’s an upside.

  4. There – I couldn’t locate the text or picture, there were not any autosaves, and the whole dang thing just disappeared. I recreated it the best I could remember…

  5. I’m amazed! I started writing very young (although I never verbalized my wish to be a writer) on my mom’s 75-pound manual Royal typewriter. Maybe it wasn’t that heavy, but it was a clunker. I never remembered this until I read your post, but one Christmas I was thoroughly surprised when I opened up a big box and my one big gift that year (we were pretty poor, so we each only got one big gift) was a Smith-Corona electric “portable” typewriter with the white ribbon for correction and automatic return. Wow and a half! I wrote many a sappy poem on that baby. I think the thing only weighed about 25 pounds…

  6. Greate recreation. Doesn’t it just irk you when stuff these kinds of things happen–posts disappear like socks–gone.

    The photo of you with the typewriter is darling. We have a picture of me at my mom’s ancient manual typewriter when I was 3. Obviously, I was too young to really write, but I think of that image as somehow prophetic–a writerly future for me.

    Hope you have a great trip. And merry Christmas.

    Kathy

  7. This is the recreated version? Wow! You are a writer, aren’t you?

  8. Thank you for posting amid your packing. I have had the same post up for a week with all the holiday preparation, finishing the term, etc. You have inspired me to get the next post up; no excuses and I do hope it doesn’t disappear.
    What a wonderful Christmas gift you received and lesson learned that you shared. With 4 kids, I still don’t know how mom and dad managed to “hide” stuff. I still remember mom calling out “Don’t look in the closet.” I’ll have to ask my siblings now, if they did.

  9. Isn’t it amazing how we could worry ourselves sick as kids?? I loved this post!

  10. That is the same one that i got one xmas about 1960 , turning the wheel was a draw back, so slow.

  11. Your face in that picture is priceless!

  12. I love this story, and I love the look on your face. So glad you are blogging.

  13. Kate, what a sweet post. thanks for sharing this wonderful moment in a child’s life. continue…

  14. Ah yes – finding gifts then having to act surprised and possibly – hide the internal disappointment. The one gift I mistakenly found ended up under my stocking from “Santa”. *sigh*

    Merry Christmas, K8! Safe travels.

  15. That picture is just adorable. This parent would never have known you snooped. 😉

    My mom encouraged us to be doctors or lawyers, or President if we wanted. When we girls got older, she suddenly regressed and decided we should just marry that way, but the “damage” was done. She was grateful for that, after a little bit of lamentation.

  16. great story! I too had some sort of toy typewriter one Christmas. Your picture is cute, but not sure you look surprised – enough. lol. Enjoy the holidays and have a safe trip.

  17. jacquelincangro

    Curiosity certainly got the better of you that year.
    Those old typewriters really weren’t much better than writing longhand, were they? 🙂

  18. –the photo is a classic….it must be on the cover of your first novel :))) X

  19. Aw, you do look a little worried in that picture (but small and sweet, nonetheless). Even though you ruined your own Christmas that year, I’m glad you kept writing!

  20. My wife will often put off opening presents for days, even weeks, after the actual holiday, because she just doesn’t want the excitement of the present to end.

  21. I guess this is a lesson a person has to learn the hard way. Who would’ve thought (as a mature little kid) knowing what you’re going to get ruins the whole thing??? I still want to know what life has around the corner. Maybe this is a good reminder to cool my heels and wait for delivery. Classic post

  22. It’s funny how we can scare ourselves into not
    enjoying something through guilt. At least, your
    Christmas wish was answered.
    Merry ..
    Isadora

  23. Cute! Great post! I, too, had a clunky blue typewriter in the late 60s. The keys looked liked big sugar cubes and they would hurt my fingers to actually try to type. I liked using good ol’ notebook paper to write my stories. My father would tell me I was “wasting” paper. Years later when I first got published, no one was prouder than Dad!

  24. Visiting from the Idiot. This was fantastic. There’s nothing quite like childhood guilt!

  25. You look both cute and guilty as hell.

    We celebrated Christmas with my mother-in-law on Friday because we’ll be with my parents that day. My hubby said today, “oh my mom called and said I forgot one present so I went over and got it. Looks like it was from you – thanks!” He opened it! It was from me AND my parents, as it is clearly marked, and I was SO excited about giving it to him that I am major bummed that I didn’t get to see his face. Now he’s got to pretend to be surprised on Christmas morning.

  26. What a GREAT story! I’m from the same generation – born in 1959, and there were seven of us. We got the gifts addressed to multiple kids and got to pick one present out of the Sears or Penney’s catalogs. Thanks for your memory bringing back mine, and for a very well-written story.

    PS I never even looked for presents. I didn’t want to know what I was getting for that reason :).

  27. Doc

    Beautiful photo. You may not look very surprised but you pulled off cute pretty good! And the story is very affecting. I hope you realize how supportive your parents must have been to actually get the typewriter for you. Either that or they were just tired of you hinting all the time! Hope your holiday is happy!

  28. Hi Katy, and Happy Christmas. I’m just hopping over here, sorry so late. I’ve been moving to my new website and it’s been….let’s just say, a Challenge (with a capital Bitch). When I read this post, I could not believe it! I went through almost the exact same thing when I was 12, only I got a real typewriter. I cheated and looked in my parents’ closet a week ahead and was a nervous wreck like you until Christmas morning rolled around. I used that typewriter all the way through high school. I wrote my senior English thesis on it, as a matter of fact, and by that time, a couple of the keys didn’t work at all. Talk about a challenge! It was the best Christmas present of my childhood, hands down. Good memory. Thanks for sparking it.
    Have a beautiful day and come visit me when you have time.
    Hugs,
    T

  29. My mom wanted me to be a secretary too. How the world has changed. But I think kids still do their best to discover the Christmas toys. Great, very classic, picture.

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