The Royal Typewriter, antediluvian even in 1973, sat on a desk in our dining/music/whatever room. The desk was built by my Dad to perfectly match the broken piece of our glass-topped dining room table that had split into a sweeping configuration when he placed a hot cup of coffee down during dinner. The desk was 60's groovy. The typewriter, not so much, but it helped to save my Mom's life and then it got my two sisters and me through high school. I can only imagine how Beverly must have felt as she went back to college and typed her way out of the anxiety and fear her life had become married to a man who couldn't stick around for more than a few weeks at a time or hold a job for more than 3 months. As Dad moved us around like gypsies running from or to God knows what, Mom knew it was up to her to provide for us, so she took The Royal and became a teacher and gave us a home and an education.
My sisters and I used that typewriter to create term papers, book reports, letters, poems and short stories. Its clickety tap clickety tap clickety tap ding zip, a firm certainty in the uncertainty of our lives. Paper after paper, with the typos whited out and typed over. The carbon paper with its ability to rip at the wrong time or smear the final draft of a paper due the next day and often used much longer than its natural lifespan in order to save money. The Royal planted the seeds of a writer in my sister, Tracy, who became a professor of English and just published her first book, My Ruby Slippers. The Road Back to Kansas (www.tracyseeley.com). It planted those seeds in me too, to grow into a blogger and a lover of words spoken, thought and written.
The Royal came to live with me in 1988 when, with my husband and 5-month old baby, I returned one last time to Wichita for Beverly's retirement party. Long after the purchase of an electric typewriter had left The Royal forgotten and collecting dust it rode back to Texas in a rented truck with the rest of my belongings I rescued from the purging garage sale that was to come before Beverly retired to Arizona. In just a few short years my baby, now 3 and joined by his 2-year old sister, would clack away on The Royal's keys, listening for the ding of the carriage and pretending to replace the long-dried out ribbon.
After many more moves, The Royal was finally relegated to the attic where it remained for the next 10 years until this last fall when one more move and the breaking of our family brought it out of seclusion. Grasping at anything that felt solid, anything that would help me bear up against another tempest of anxiety and fear, I grabbed for The Royal and anchored it to the table in the entryway of this house my son and I will share until he leaves for college. The Royal, ignored for years but old enough now to be ironic, has been rechristened "The Angst Machine" and given a place of honor in this new season of our lives. Once again, this marvel of an invention that saved my Mother's life, partnered in a thousand papers and formed the writers in us, is now serving a third generation of this family in ways the makers of The Royal never dreamed into the plans. In brief moments throughout the day, my son will stop by The Angst Machine, dash off a few choice words to vent his anger or frustration in his own darkly creative way knowing that the ribbon, being as dry as his wit, is a trustworthy keeper of secrets.
The Angst Machine is also a metaphor for my life....Despite the neglect, dust and tiny pieces of attic insulation that can't be completely dislodged from the inner workings, the clickety tap clickety tap clickety tap ding zip still work and we both have plenty left to say.