Getting these thoughts down won’t be easy. I know that as well as I know my own name. I also know I should be working on the manuscript that’s under deadline. And I was, until this piece ambushed me. Words that have been politely bidding their time in the corners of my mind, marinating like nobody’s business, have suddenly demanded to take shape in black and white. Immediately. As if now words won’t come until these then words get written.
It’s a story with deep roots that spans generations and connects the present with yesteryear as if there were no moments between the two. It begins with this sweetheart.
Meet my Papa’s mother, Grandma Rushing. Grandma didn’t have much formal education to speak of but she was sharp, sharp as a tack folks said. Grandma was pleased when I learned to read, but when I fell head over heels in love with the magic of words a bond formed between the two of us unlike anything the rest of the family shared. Nothing pleased my grandmother more than finding me reading a book and I must’ve made her plenty happy because I read ‘em as fast as I could get my hands on them.
As a widow on a fixed income, she saved up her money to buy me a typewriter for Christmas. (Young person, typewriters were heavy machines that recorded words by striking black ink onto white paper.) I was eleven years old or somewhere thereabouts. That’s an inconsequential detail lost to time. Of deep lasting significance to me was her reasoning behind the gift. Because, “You need to type out all those stories you make up. One day you can be a writer.”
In the ensuing months and years to come Grandma eagerly read every word I forged with two skinny forefingers. Grandma Rushing went to her grave at ninety-four, still believing I’d be a famous writer. Our dream, hers and mine, remains unrealized, and that is more than okay. Her gift to me was her belief in me. How I wish every child could be given such a priceless treasure.
I remember sitting at that typewriter like it was the entrance to another world. I picked and pecked out black marks and enjoyed a new and addictive thrill with every return of the carriage. (Young person, when you arrived at the right margin and hit the carriage return to get back to the left hand margin, the typewriter would make a lovely sound as if rewarding you for the effort it took to move through the white space.)
Yesteryear came full circle this past Christmas…
My immediate family had finished opening gifts when my daughter announced that she had one more. She left the room and returned with a box. The rest of the crowd smiled expectantly.
Truth: Knowing a moment is going to be big doesn’t necessarily prepare you for it.
Inside that box rested an antique typewriter my daughter had happened upon somewhere in Texas. When she saw it, she thought of my story, because of course everyone in this family knows my typewriter story, and she knew I had to have it.
It’s hard to type through tears.
Ironically, it took this post and this grasping reaching word search to figure out why my daughter giving me a typewriter, all these years later, reduced me to a wet mess this past Christmas. I think it is because it wasn’t just a sentimental gesture.
It was a nod to the me that came before us.
Before I was a wife, mother, and grandmother, I was a little girl infatuated with the power of words.
Years after my grandmother gave into my dreams, my daughter acknowledged them and spoke a blessing over them with one perfectly chosen gift.