(An older post, but just as new in expressing my immense gratitude to my Dad, who typed my very first poems on an old typewriter…Because you can never say ‘Thank you’ enough times…)
There was something miraculous about those typed words. Even the paper smelled differently. And my Dad’s fingers always had some ink on them.
Do you know the old typewriters that go clank clank when you jump with your fingers from one round landing pad to another? Letters come out one by one like odd but cute hollow critters, all lined up in a neat row on the paper and then when you get to the end of the row you pull on this lever with a swift move and the ink tank moves all the way to the left and you start again. Clank clank.
If the paper is too soft then each letter is blotchy and as it sits there all embarrassed by its lack of grace and the big mess around it you feel like you want to pet its round hollow head and say it’s OK little odd thing, you’re on paper, you’re where you should be, that was the point.
Because somehow even though you’re still a kid, the fascination that comes from seeing your words on paper is beyond all imperfections. And when all the words you’ve ever written are handwritten seeing them typed for the first time is a mighty leg-shaking experience. A good one.
The pages my dad holds in his hand today are sprinkled with my words. My poems and short stories that he typed that day. He likes them he says.
I know he’s not just saying it. By the way he looks at me I just feel these solid stepping stones of encouragement that he lays out there for me to walk on and take off flying when I’ll feel like it. I had told my Dad that I want to send some poems out to a few contests.
I am grade 10 and have been writing for quite a while now. Too long, my sister would say, let’s play instead. Up in my quince tree, writing away about the world around and the one inside. Poems, stories, my journal. I am part of a couple of writers’ groups, mostly grown-ups where everybody’s writings is dissected and poked at. My first shot at literary critique if you will. Intimidating but good.
I touch those typewritten pages for the first time and I skip a beat. I read them, fold them neatly in half and put them in an envelope.
My Dad smiles as he sees me run down the cement steps with the envelope in my hand. The walk to the post office is hopeful, how else.
The woman sitting behind the thick glass panel in the deserted post office takes the change through the small round mouse hole and hands me back the stamp. She’s probably bored with her job and annoyed with my bringing my dog in with me. Lick, stick and slide the brown envelope into the long thin mouth of red mailbox outside.
A few months later I buy the literary magazine, yet again, and this time I see my seashell poem there. The albatross one too.They’re both there. I forget to breathe.
The words are not the cute hollow black caterpillars my Dad stuck to the paper for me a while ago. These ones are still mine but they make me think of kids who leave home all rambunctious and bedhead-haired-all-day-long to go to boarding school and return all clean and well-mannered a while after.
I keep reading my poems. They’re mine alright. I show them to my Dad. We laugh, he shakes my hand, a ceremonious thing he does because hugs are reserved for other occasions. And it’s perfect. I feel all grown-up now. I show them to my Mom. She’s happy. They buy two more copies of the magazine so they can cut the poems out and keep them in the kitchen in the old cupboard with the small bible and old photos of me and my sister. For show and tell to people who stop for coffee and chat.
I took a detour from writing for many years. But I missed seeing my words dance and laugh belly laughs on paper. So I started writing again. I’ll never stray from it again. I can’t. And every time my words make it on paper, glossy and not so glossy, but published somewhere out there, all I can think of is how this whole thing started: with my Dad typewriting every one of them and believing they can fly high like the very albatrosses his little girl was writing about.
The gift of published word. How did he know?