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  • Writer's pictureJorie Kramer

The Typewriter of Destiny

Our destinies, I’ve concluded, are decided by our parents’ hobbies. My friend Cheryl’s mom was an artist. She taught Cheryl how to use paints and pastels and now, after a long and curvy path, Cheryl is successfully selling her watercolors in galleries along Colorado’s Front Range.

There, of course, are exceptions to that rule of destiny. Case in point: my husband. Mark’s parents were exceptionally talented crafts people. His dad loved woodworking and his mom, well, if you could do it with a needle and thread, she excelled at it. They owned every tool you could want for most any project.

But, Mark? He looks at DIY merch and says, “Nope. I’ll just buy it already made.”

As for me, I fit into the first category. But my parents didn’t love anything arty or crafty. They loved office work. Why in the world would I think that? You should have seen the home office they carved out of a teensy space in our tiny spare bedroom.

An elegant dark wood altar, I mean desk, and matching chair, held pride of place in the center of the wall under the window. The stapler and scotch tape dispenser occupied one corner of the polished, uncluttered top. A bottle of mucilage with its angled rubber nose huddled in the other, next to an unused inkwell. A smooth leather blotter filled the center. The middle drawer held pens and pencils of all colors and sizes, rulers, paperclips, and rubber bands. The side drawers held important papers, like wills. I wasn’t supposed to snoop in those drawers, but I did.

We even had a crank-operated pencil sharpener attached to the wall in the closet. (I remember this because I told one of the neighbor kids that her parents were slackers because they didn’t have a pencil sharpener in their house, and I wanted one right then. I marched that poor, deprived child over to my house and we got the job done. (I often wondered why I didn’t get invited to neighbors’ birthday parties. But that’s another story.))

Our most wonderful office supply, though, was the Royal manual typewriter that lived in a green case next to the desk. As a little kid, I’d sneak in, open the case and proceed to jam as many keys as I could. I’d pound away on the keyboard, oblivious to the damage done to the paperless carriage.

That durable workhorse survived my early years, probably because my mother got tired of chasing me away from it and put it high up on a shelf in the closet.

The Royal came back into my life in junior high when I needed it to practice for typing class. It came to live in my room during high school so that I could type my papers on my little desk and get better grades. My teachers told us repeatedly that studies proved that typewritten papers were graded higher than handwritten ones of the same quality. I needed all the help I could get.

After I bought an electric typewriter, which has not survived, the Royal was retired to the back of storage closets, brought out only for occasional forms or letters.

The Royal surfaced a few years ago when I closed up Mom’s apartment after she moved to the nursing home. I found it in her hall closet, opened the case and the smell of the ribbon brought back a flood of delightful memories.

I determined then and there to use the Royal as an inspiration piece in my office, or writer’s studio, as I’m calling it now.

It sat unnoticed by my grandkids until a couple of days ago. Suddenly, it was the “in” thing in our house as four of my six grandkids discovered how fun and mysterious a manual typewriter is. The youngest, at three, delighted in finding the letters of his name and making them appear on the paper. My second-grade granddaughter marveled at the mechanics of the carriage and margins.

After trying their hands at typing on it, my two young adult grandkids, and the boyfriend of my oldest granddaughter, insisted I show them how to make the antique perform perfectly. I laughed and confessed I never did master the art of typing. I couldn’t get the hang of hitting the keys evenly and steadily, even though I produced hundreds of pages on that old machine. I was so thankful when they invented word processors.

Besides our old typewriter, I’ve noticed my grandbabies also share my love of pens and pencils, and funny thumbtacks. It’s good to know that all kinds of analog office equipment still hold a mystique for me and my digital native descendants.

I’m happy that they think our Royal family heirloom is cool. That old typewriter is on its way to inspiring yet another generation of paper pushers and writers.

To inspire a love of typewriters in digital natives (or yourself):

Read: Click, Clack, Moo – Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin (Author) and Betsy Lewin (Illustrator)

Watch: The Typewriter Song with Martin Breinschmid and the Strauß Festival Orchestra Vienna:

Find more essays like this in my book, God, I’m A Jerk, available on Kindle Vella where the first three chapters are always free:

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