“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.
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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.