Monday, September 30, 2013

Some Dreams Never Die

   Heavy in weight, cold to the touch, with dust covering its once beautiful form... My fingers brush the grime of ages off my find, and I can only softly smile at it. I'm so strange to be smiling at this. But it brings up such memories and past longings. I trace over the faded letters, touch the brittle ribbon, sigh over the fact that it's been neglected so.

  Before me, sitting at a garage sale, is a typewriter. In all its ruinous, rusty state, it sits silently and proudly. Unlike a broken iPod, Ultrabook, or MP3, it hasn't been cast away in the dump. People hold on to these things but don't know what to do with them. They're reminders of a past that was once more solid, and permanent. You didn't throw things away then, you fixed them.

  When I was ten years old, my favorite books to read were the American Girl books (yeah... I admit it), and I loved the character Kit. She was a writer, and had a typewriter that she would clackety clack on whenever she had a story. I read those books over, and over, and over again, purely because I liked the descriptions of the typewriter. I liked the noise, the solidity, the old fashionedness of them. And I dreamed of having one of those contraptions myself, one day. Not too much longer after that, a childhood friend of mine and I were exploring the attic in our church (her father was the pastor, so exploring and playing in the church was usually what we did together), and I found two pea-green colored typewriters. They were hideous to look at, were extraordinarily heavy, and had keys like a modern laptop, rather than the round, exposed ones you see on the truly old fashioned ones. But they still made that clackety clack noise. I wanted one so bad, but being the silly, shy young kid that I was, I was too scared to ask if I could rescue one from the dusty, dark abyss that the attic was. I think two years passed before I got up the nerve to ask about them... My mind had jumped to them every Sunday since I first found them; I would sit in the pew and try to focus on the sermon, but one far corner of my mind was still thinking about those ugly typewriters. When I did finally ask about taking one, I was told that I was one week too late... They had just cleaned those attics out and thrown the typewriters away, not knowing what else to do with them. It was like having a secret crush on someone for two years and then finding out that they like someone else besides you. You feel empty, and lost. Not really sure you heard things correctly.

  Owning a typewriter seemed like such a grand thing... Only writers had those things and used them, right? I always wanted to be "a writer" when I was growing up. But I was terrible at it, and was lost in the shadow of a younger sister who had natural talent for words. To me, having a typewriter was like someone handing me keys and saying "You are now a writer. You can now write all those words into sentences. Sentences into paragraphs. Paragraphs into stories. Stories into books. Go for it." I tried writing in my early teens, but there were always problems with it. I couldn't find a rhythm, a voice, a comfortable spot. The pens and pencils hated me. I wanted to type. To feel like a journalist who knew what she was doing. I craved the cold, hard keys that noisily sang the tune of the mind's thoughts turning into words.

  I saw many a more typewriters after those ugly pea-green ones. Some worked, some didn't. Some were rusted and covered in cobwebs, and some were pristine. Some were affordable, and some were way out of my price range. At garage sales, at antique stores, in people's homes. I never could bring one home though. Where would I put it? I was a writer who didn't know how to write, and one who had no space for her secret desire.

  When I was eighteen, the writing world opened up. It was my last year in school, and I had finally found one curriculum that taught language arts in a way that made sense to me. It wasn't easy, or fast, but through much determination and pure stubbornness, I cracked through the musty secrets of writing, and began unleashing all the pent up stories in my head. One by one they tumbled out. I wrote, and wrote and wrote. Much of it was poor work, and much of it still is, but I write because I love it.

   Today I sit here. Right now I sit here. My fingers do not press down on old, faded keys that create an antiquated font, but rather on a modern, sleek Dell laptop. The sound of the keys is not a noisy clickety clack, but a more subtle "click, click, click". My thoughts aren't being recorded on smudged paper, but on a screen in cyber space. I have come to love the elegance of modern technology. Ultrabooks that fold in half backwards and turn into touch pads, iPads that can fit in a purse, and Leap Motion plug ins that allow you to control things on your screen like Tony Stark does in Iron Man. In all honesty, I'm a geek when it comes to techy stuff. I don't necessarily understand the technology behind how it all works, but I'm a sucker for these new fangled things. I find them quite cool.

   However, there's still that corner in my mind that remembers the ugly pea-green typewriters. Still remembers the longing for a typewriter so that I too could be a part of the mysterious writing world. Still remembers the books with Kit, and still wants that tie to our history. Eleven years later, I'm sitting in front of a laptop and wishing I had a typewriter. It's always been my intention to "someday" buy a typewriter. It's like how I knew that someday I needed a good dog of my own. Having an old fangled, heavy machine that spits out words in a clunky fashion feels right to me.

   But now that I'm older, I have to face the realization that a typewriter isn't a very useful thing to someone who types things online. Typewriters only do paper. Don't they?

  Turns out that they don't. A week or so ago I randomly found one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen: A gentleman in Philadelphia is taking old typewriters, fixing them up and - get this - hacking them to work as a keyboard for your computer/laptop/iPad. I'm serious. Check out his website HERE.

  When I first saw the images of his work, I wigged out. Honest to goodness, wigged out. I wanted to scream and cry. Oh my word, these typewrites that worked with iPads and laptops were the marriage of the new technology that I love, and the old fashioned stability that I've swooned over since I first entered the double digits in age. This was mixing my childhood hopes and dreams with my present day needs. All wrapped up in that one invention is Kit, and the pea-green typewriters in the attic, and the longing to write, the fear to write, the feeling of being overshadowed by a younger sister who was better than me, the breaking through the fears, the stubbornness of becoming a writer even though others snorted at my attempts, and then comes to a slow halt at today. I think these have got to be the coolest things ever. You get the clickety clack and solidness of the typewriter, while still being able to type online. Just awesome.

   Someday I want one of these things. Maybe I'll splurge and buy his ready-to-use typewriters, or maybe I'll go with the cheaper route of buying the conversion kit and putting it on a typewriter that I find in one of my adventures yet to come.

   I became a writer without the typewriter. I always thought I needed one to get to the point that I'm at today. Now I've found that I didn't. But I still want one of those clunky contraptions. So that I can go clickety clack on my stories whenever I want...


Erin Waterbury said...

There's a shop in North Portland near my parents that repairs and sells typewriters. Nothing quite so fancy as ready to hook up to your computer but more local. We used to have a typewriter when I was a kid and I remember us playing with it and jamming the keys over and over again. :)

Penelope T. said...

Hello Caitlyn,

Would you be willing to share the name of the writing curriculum you used in your senior year? I'm hoping to start a blog in the future, but my writing skills need a little help.

Hope you are keeping warm in MO!