Being: Conscious, mortal existence; life.
Every month we welcome two families, two people, two voices to share their stories in whatever way they chose. We hope that you find joy in their daily lives, and their simple habit of just being.
I remember when I was a child, I loved to sit at my mother’s roll-top desk and admire the strange implements it held within. Wax pencils, typewriter erasers, fountain pens, embossed stationary, wax for sealing letters. It might be an understatement to say that she loved the craft of letter writing desperately.
I loved watching her open the daily mail with a gold-tipped letter opener. Her eyes briefly glazing over as she removed linen paper from envelopes, as she unfolded letters you could sense her anticipation. It was magical to watch, the excitement of a new story. A pause in life’s daily doldrums to witness someone else’s experience, a privilege in more ways than one. The way she drank in these moments was stunningly beautiful, calm, radiant.
It should come as no surprise then, that I was raised to love the written word. My parents encouraged voracious reading, and ensured that I had constant access to libraries, story hours, and bedtime stories. They encouraged me in the art of storytelling—even listened to me wax poetic over the escapades of ‘Bella the Unicorn Princess’ for hours at a time. I wrote them in long hand, scrawled on loose-leaf binder paper.
Binder paper was lovely, but nothing compared to my grandparents’ typewriter.
A mid-70’s electric IBM.
It hummed, purred, and clacked like a dream.
When I would visit my grandparents, I’d hunch myself into a chair and clickity-clack the hours away, the only light coming from a single mustard colored desk lamp. My parents once remarked that the desk space looked comically ‘stereotypical’, pages of ink embossed paper in stacks, various crumpled up mistakes littering the floor around my chair, a furrow atop my brow. ‘A veritable, yet unsophisticated Hemmingway’ my father once remarked. I suppose I was a sight to behold, all holed up in that green shag-carpeted basement, writing epic tales about dogs who could talk, expanding the adventures of ‘Bella’, and dreaming letters into sentences into stories.
These days, I spend much of my time writing. I write for various blogs, I have weekly assignments for my courses that count towards my MFA in Creative Non-Fiction, I work on my novel, I comment on students’ papers, I answer emails, I respond to texts. Each is under a deadline, a blip on the radar, and much of it is only read in haste.
This past summer, I happened upon a vintage typewriter in a small second-hand shop in rural Massachusetts. I haggled with the owner, and she parted with the lovely machine for a mere $40. I was transported back to my childhood, and fell deeply in love with the thing—rare for someone who has so little concern over things.
To me it represents permanence in a drastically changing world. When I use it, I am forced to think carefully about what comes next, to edit liberally but after the fact, and to truly see what I am writing. It is a meditative practice, and a reminder to ‘slow down’ and ‘think before you act’—things most people I know cannot manage to do. When I write this way, there are no deadlines. No one is waiting for the final product, or any product at all for that matter. It takes me back to that basement, the shag rug, and my hunched shoulders.
My mother is now a seasoned emailer, much to my chagrin. She rarely sends letters anymore, except when one is required ‘In Sympathy’ for the death of a loved one. Her letter opener remains unused in the roll-top desk, which now gathers dust in her basement.
This month we are welcoming Makenna here as a guest contributor to the Being series. Makenna lives in Georgia, and is an Adjunct Professor and Doula. You can check up on her at her personal blog, CALL SIGN: Wife and we hope that you’ll return here each Monday in August for her reflections.
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