A ROYAL INTERMISSION

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.

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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.

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29 thoughts on “A ROYAL INTERMISSION

  1. What a great story!

    I guess through the eyes of young people today, the things we took for granted – like typewriters – are odd relics, so clunky and desperately unfunctional compared to their futuristic successors.
    I remember preparing my university papers on a small typewriter – much like the one in your photo – … and lending it to others in my dorm who didn’t have one. That typewriter is long gone now.

    Reading your story reminded me of how archaic they are. Hopefully we aren’t as archaic as these things imply 🙂

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    • Yes, I suppose they are archaic, but you know when we pulled this out and he opened it up, I could still feel that little tremor of excitement go through me….THE TYPEWRITER! It was only after he started playing with it and I actually hit a few keys myself and loaded the paper, etc. that I realized how far even I have become removed from this past wonder…….isn’t it funny you were ahead of the game having one of these at university and now the playing field is pretty much even on this level…..it seems no one goes to university without some sort of device today. The world moves on I guess…sometimes we just don’t even realize how much….

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    • Thank you for good wishes! Raising a teen boy, you do tend to feel that you are just a food supplier or student hostel at times; so it was heartening to see that familiar little guy in there, even just for a bit!

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    • Yes, we’ve come a long way in a short period of time for sure. I feel very outdated now not in just how long it takes for me to “keep up” on the new technologies, but now, it seems, just in being familiar with things like a simple typewriter!

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  2. What a brilliant recounter of yesterday’s events and all the more prevalent given your moving chaos. Just think, the moment may never have happened had you not been moving at all! Shows how far we’ve come in such a short space of time doesn’t it 🙂

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  3. Sasha says:

    Oh, your story has left my stomach in knots–both sad and happy. I think of my own little man growing up like this, becoming his own and I am filled with sorrow. Then, I hear of your fun connection and adult conversations over an old typewriter and I smile. Thanks for sharing this sweet story.

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    • Sasha…..I don’t do the whole advice thing usually because I think everyone has their own experience to wade through, but I just want to say to you Do not dread this growing up of your boy. It’s inevitable and it really does only get better every single year. Yes, there are pitfalls and yes there are THOSE DAYS, but truly, I can’t think of anything that’s given me more pleasure than waking up and being able to experience with my boys yet another day in their development. When my oldest son got married, I was just so intensely proud that he was raised in an environment with us where he went out in the world, found love, and grabbed it up to hold close. Alot of people see a son’s marriage as a loss, but I actually feel I gained a daughter. Alot of what we go through with kids is perspective and I feel sure your experience is going to go well for you on down the line because you do value your children so much. So there…some non-advice and a prompt reply! 🙂

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  4. What a terrific story, Joanne! And I’m right there with you on the teenage son front. Mine just turned sixteen last month and I must say even a year has made some milestone moments appear. I think so much has to do with their adjusting to a new identity. It’s the physical newness of so much so fast. Plus your son has the newness of location as well.
    It’s hard to resist the urge not to simply grab them and squish them–resistance be damned, but holding back is probably best for the future of any good relationship I suppose.
    I wish you many, many happy, healthy years in your new home. You are now living in one of my favorite villages in the whole world. It’s truly adorkable.
    Cheers to this new chapter–yours, and his. 🙂

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    • Sorry, my friend, about the name mix-up, especially since I don’t actually know it. And why Joanne? I’m guessing because one of my favorite people who live near St. Michael’s is Joanne. She was obviously on my mind while writing to you.
      The sentiments remain the same, regardless!

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      • Thank you again. The name, for future reference is Torrie. I am so glad you posted this follow up….I was imaging everyone reading this and addressing me in all future comments as Joanne! 🙂 Too funny. Might be nice to have another identity I suppose, but will leave Joanne’s to her! 🙂 Thank you for being so kind!

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        • Torrie! A terrific name, and now I must commit this to memory. Alas, today has proven that my powers of acuity are waaay off. This comes from a lack of caffeine, and juggling way too many manuscript revisions. Total brain fog.

          So, Erie, PA? Well, part of my heart and soul lies there too (PA) as that’s where The Office was supposed to take place, and it’s only about 5 hours to Scranton. I love those people. You will be in good hands.

          And Joanne, is lovely, but then again, I only know and keep in touch with truly lovely people. 😉

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          • Well, am glad to hear that you have good associations with PA. For sure, I feel alot better being back on home ground here. I wish I had a manuscript to blame on my usual brain fog! Alas, I can only attribute it to moving chaos and that’s hopefully not going to last too much longer. What will I do then? 🙂

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    • Oh, thank you so much for the good wishes..right now, I’m just hoping we survive this move into the townhouse and get a little breather before we start house hunting again. I’m so wanting a new place to nest but am surely not ready to do all this moving again! I think I must not have been very clear in my post or perhaps you missed the previous post (Status) I should’ve referenced in this one..we have just left St. Michaels and are now moving to Erie, PA area. I certainly wish I would’ve known your friend when we were in SM though….would have been nice to have a new friend down there!

      Anyway, concerning the boys….yes, I wholeheartedly agree with you about them adjusting to a new identity. I think we have a good bit of that going on too actually. Sometimes, I look at my son and I think, ‘Who is this young man? Where is that baby I know?’ I do agree though…..the urge to squish is constantly a battle! 🙂 Thanks so much for your comments…I always look forward to hearing from you on here!

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  5. Lovely story of how you saw again the wonder and innocence of your son as he examined the typewriter. And how hard it is to fathom that what was the norm not so many decades ago is totally obsolete and superseded by something so much more powerful.

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    • Yes, I agree, it is hard to fathom and sadly, I’m seeing this more and more….I think that means I’m getting old but I intend to fight this long enough to see all these “old” things come back into fashion and then I’ll be a trendsetter! 🙂

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  6. Oh, somehow I missed this one when you posted it.

    “the ponderous teen who only seems to seek out your company when there is food involved” – that made me burst out laughing.

    I loved this story about your teenage son. My middle one turned 15 last April. He’s a whole head of hair taller than me (and I am not a short person). But you do still get those moments, don’t you? I love dragging out my old scientific calculator that got me all the way through university. The boys just look at me in horror. 🙂

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    • Hah! I knew it couldn’t be just me that understood the teen boy/food relationship! Thanks so much for letting me know I’m not alone! Ah, yes, scientific calculators…..a little gem that is still in use for these young brains, but of course ours are so “outdated” and “clunky.” Does make me wonder how people our age ever managed to make it this far!

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