Yes, I know I just gave you a status yesterday, but I had a bit of time to myself last night when I didn’t just collapse and wanted to get this down before the details faded. Hence, here I am again.
My youngest son, Spencer, just turned 15 two weeks ago and he’s about to start high school in a new place. Luckily for us, he’s relishing the prospect of another new adventure. But anyone who’s ever raised kids to this point knows that there is a big divide between the special moments with the child that happily followed you around and ran to you with every boo-boo and accomplishment and hugged you just because it felt good and the ponderous teen who only seems to seek out your company when there is food involved. Oh, there are moments, don’t get me wrong, but they’re different now and sometimes it’s very hard to see that child that used to be so open and so warm and cuddly in the teen that sleeps till noon, has lost his baby fat and is so thin you can’t even find pants with a small enough waist size, now uses more hair and body products than you ever knew existed, and seems to speak a different language only known to those under 20.
With all the moving chaos going on lately, special moments around here have been few and far between. I sat across from my son at his birthday dinner two weeks ago and really saw him with a different perspective. I was stunned to see he was sitting just as tall as the other people (adults) at the table, indeed even taller than some even being the youngest one present. Even more than that though, he was just sitting…he was not up running around, crawling under the table and coming out on the other side, or curling up in my lap as he used to. A further look brought home that he was dressed in fashionable clothes of his choosing – not mine, and his hair was styled just the way he wanted it, not the way I used to do it for him. He was happy to be the center of attention, but also a bit shy about it too….That gangly awkwardness of being halfway between two worlds….too big to be one of the kids and yet, not quite up to the adult repartee of politics, controversies, etc.
Yesterday, we were at home working to pack up the house for eventual removal into storage – lots of ferreting out things, sorting, bagging this, and boxing that. One of the things we did later in the day was explore the crawlspace upstairs to see what my older son had left there when he moved across the country 4 years ago. My husband reported that there was a baby crib (leftover from the days of Spencer’s first couple years and which I thought I’d stored for future grandchildren), a box of childhood mementos from our older son’s childhood which will have to go along to storage with us, and last but not least, my parents’ old Royal typewriter.
My older son had become intrigued with typing when he was very young as computers weren’t really in homes until he was 8 or 9. Anyway, my parents had given him this typewriter of theirs to play with I guess. After we got our first computer, he promptly fell out of love with the little typewriter and we stored it away for all those years until we pulled it back out yesterday. (It should be said here that Dad is the original hanger-on to his things….never, never, never does he toss anything away that was once useful to him, much to Mom’s dismay). I had husband just sit it downstairs with the rest of the boxes waiting to go figuring I’d ask Mom and Dad what they wanted me to do with it now.
Anyway, a little while later, Spencer came down the stairs and headed for the refrigerator. As he was walking around sucking down a yoghurt, he spied the ugly yet distinct box on the table in the dining room. Curiously, he approached, worked the latch, and opened the box. He shrieked at me, “Oh, my God, Mum! What is this? Oh, my God!” I had to smile. His exclamation was the perfect mix of intrigue, repulsion, and amazement – almost childlike in his obviously surreal experience. I walked over into the dining room to find him touching every part of the old Royal and eyeing it up from all angles. He was totally fascinated by this obvious relic. He again asked what this thing was. I replied to him that it was a typewriter and it was the precursor to computers today. I told him how I’d grown up watching both Mom and Dad type their “important” papers on this and how I was so proud to have had a typing class in middle school and join the ranks of the “adults” who could use such a wonderful thing.
He then started looking very closely at the keys and asked where the ENTER key was. I pointed out to him the carriage return lever. I then demonstrated the bell that rang when the paper advanced to the end of the margin. He was astounded staring at me in wide-eyed shock trying it over and over. “You have to be kidding,” he said, “It’s not automatic?” I told him this was how it was done and also then pointed out the space bar too couldn’t just be held down, but had to be hit for every space you wanted to insert. He squealed with horror exclaiming, “This can’t be real? Are you serious? Mum, tell me the truth!” He went on, “If you had a class in this, then there were a bunch of these things and a bunch of people using them and a bunch of these clacking keys and annoying bells going off all the time?” I told him, yes, there had been, but actually thinking about it now, I guess I’d always viewed that as part of the excitement of the class – something different – and not as an annoyance to be dreaded as he obviously did.
He then found out how to open the top and continued to explore in his childlike amazement the setup of the typing ribbon and heavy keys and how the keys were attached to the metal typebars much like a piano, etc. He then found some paper and I showed him how to roll it in. He couldn’t get over how hard you had to hit the keys to actually make a letter appear on a piece of paper. (Of course this machine was stored in an attic crawlspace for the better part of 15 years so the ribbon was almost completely dry, but still…) He then asked what happened if you wanted more than one copy to print. So I then gave him a short history on carbon paper and was met with another look….this one of complete disdain that we’d had things so rough back in the day. But still, even shaking his head, he sat there and typed on that paper for the better part of 30 minutes. (It actually amused me to see him typing on a machine over 50 years old textspeak “Hello. R U there? #ICan’tBelieveThis,” etc.)
After that, he became more interested in the large, hard case it was hooked into. He said, “What is this? Why is it in such a big case like this?” I said, “Well, that’s basically your laptop bag.” I went on to explain that this was a great thing because you could carry it anywhere you needed it and it offered it protection as well. I showed him how to take it out of the case and fasten it back into the case and also made known the new-wave wire paper holder inside. He then closed it all up and hefted it up and couldn’t believe the weight of it. Huge eyes looked at me I guess never realizing the hardships we faced in the old days……
The whole time this was going on though, I’m watching him remembering the curious toddler he used to be always having to take things apart to understand them and approaching everything with absolute amazement, inquisitiveness, and wonder. At 15, he’s a hair taller than me (probably due to so many hair products!) and experimenting to find his own style in clothing, hair, food, girls, and his place in this vast world. He trusts me and he loves me, but he’s starting now to put that little healthy distance between us so he can spread his wings and yet not enough distance that I won’t be close enough to catch him if he needs it. It’s a hard place for both of us sometimes – me needing to step back and not really wanting to and him needing to take over but not quite sure yet how to do that. But yesterday, even in the midst of all the chaos we’re living with right now (teen years, moving, new school, etc.), my son and I both had a nice glimpse into history….his with the typewriter and me seeing again the wonder and innocence of that little boy of mine he used to be.
Life is good.