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Thank you to those of you who visited walkdownthelane.com this week!  As you know, I normally post on Wednesdays.  However, we’re moving into a new home and I simply ran out of time to write today.  I hope to be back on schedule next Wednesday with a new post.  Thank  you for your support of my blog and books…I so appreciate it!

Janet

 

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Author’s note:  We are moving to a new home this week and I came across my old typewriter while packing.  I remembered that one of my very first blog posts was about my Smith Corona.  Since I’m a little short on both time and energy this week, I thought it might be a good time to revisit this one. 

For my 18th birthday in 1978, I received a brand new Smith Corona Electric Typewriter.  It was shiny silver and smoky blue and the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.  It had white plastic keys and a manual carriage that I had requested because I wanted to be able to feel the progress I was making as I wrote each line.

 

I was so excited about my birthday present that I slept with it that first night.  I put it right in my double canopy bed beside me.  I was leaving for college two weeks after my birthday and it was the only thing I wanted.  To this day, it remains one of the best gifts of my life.

I used that typewriter almost daily for the next six years.  I loved the sounds it made as the keys punched onto the Mead Typing Paper.

 

Years of class papers were typed on it as well as all of my articles for my college newspaper.  When I finished with my degree, I used it to type the papers my husband wrote for his master’s degree. 

Of course, in those days, we usually wrote our papers on lined notebook paper then typed them very carefully so as not to have to retype or heaven forbid, use White-out on the typing paper!

I typed my first resume on the Smith Corona…and my husband’s as well.  Other than the car we shared, it was the most valuable thing we owned until we were out of college and working jobs in the real world. 

After that, I only used the Smith Corona occasionally, and a few years out of college, it was taken from its home on my desk, put in its case and relegated to the back of my closet.  You see, in the days before everyone had a PC, Brother had come out with a great word processor which was much more user friendly than the old electric typewriters.

When my sons were small, maybe seven and five, one of them asked me what I kept in the “suitcase” in the back of my closet.  I took the Smith Corona out of its case and showed my boys what a typewriter could do.  They took turns pounding away on the keys and enjoying the sounds it made.  “But where is the delete button, mama?”

 

Over the years, my boys and later my daughter would occasionally ask me to get out the Smith Corona so they could “typewrite”.  They were just as intrigued by the sounds it made as I had been. 

I would give them a stack of white typing paper and they would have a great time putting the paper in the roller and punching the keys.  Later, I would find typewritten love notes on my pillow.  “I love you mommy” followed by rows and rows of x’s and o’s.

A few years ago, as I was driving to one of my son’s high school basketball games, I passed a small machine business I hadn’t noticed before.  The sign in the window said “we service and repair all brands of typewriters”.  The next day, I pulled the Smith Corona out of its hiding place in the back of the closet and took it in. 

The shop smelled like oil and grease and all things from another place and time.  The counter was littered with relics I recognized from my past….old record players and cassette tape players and typewriters of every shape, size and color. 

  

The little old man behind the counter nodded appreciatively as he opened the case and looked inside.  “You don’t see many like this anymore” he said.  “Are you interested in selling it?”  I shook my head no.  “I was hoping you could check it to see if it needed any repairs.”

I couldn’t imagine parting with my old friend who had embarked on the journey to adulthood with me and had accompanied me ever since.  And, I may have grandchildren someday.  They may want to know about life when I was young.  And one of these days, they might just want to “typewrite” for old time’s sake.

Much has changed in the world of technology during the last 35 years.  I think sometimes our children don’t realize how different the world is now from the one we grew up in. 

I had a typewriter for writing papers, and I called my parents collect from the pay phone outside my college dorm once a week on Sundays.  My mother also has a box of letters…yes, the kind written on paper with a pen…I sent her from college.

The beauty of our kids having laptops and iPads and cell phones is that we can keep in regular touch with them in a way that wasn’t possible for our parents.  As every parent knows, sometimes just knowing they are safe and that we can reach them puts our mind at ease.

 

Recently, while reorganizing a closet, I found my Smith Corona.  My daughter said, “You still have your typewriter!  I used to love to type on that thing!”  I opened the case and ran my fingers over the white keys…“Yep, me too.”

 

 

 

 

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During the weeks leading up to our move, we have gotten rid of a lot of things.  Sometimes it’s hard to know what to keep and what to purge as one prepares to live in a new house.  Some items however, are such a part of our family history that they are non-negotiable.

When our oldest child was in elementary school, one of his teachers suggested that we buy him an unabridged dictionary to help with homework and school projects.  New parents want to do things right, so we set off for the bookstore to find a dictionary.  We went home with a huge, 1993 Random House Second Edition Unabridged Dictionary that cost around $100.

I remember my husband questioning why we had to have such a large and expensive dictionary.  By that time, we had three children who were age seven and under and I told him to think of the investment as averaging out to just $33 per kid.  I loved words and learning about them and I wanted our children to love them too.

The reason for buying an unabridged dictionary was that it was a more comprehensive dictionary with all of the terms and definitions relating to each word.  Smaller or abridged dictionaries are shortened versions which omit terms or definitions because of space limitations.  We chose the dictionary with the most information and in this case there’s some weight to the words because the old book weighs in at around 10 pounds.

And boy, did we ever get some use out of that dictionary!  All three kids (and a number of their friends) used it for homework and projects over the years.  I also used it regularly for my writing which was only a hobby back then.

It was used as a booster seat when my daughter made the switch from a high chair to a grown up chair at the dinner table, and it was used as a weight any time someone was trying to glue something.  When my daughter was about four, she would practice picking the dictionary up and tell me it was making her stronger.  Any time one of us came across a word we didn’t know, we would go in search of the big dictionary for enlightenment and clarification.

Whenever my oldest son was doing homework and would ask me how to spell a word, I would tell him to look it up in the dictionary.  I still remember the smile on his face as he answered each time, “Mom, how can I look it up if I don’t know how to spell the word?”  To which I would respond, “I bet you can figure it out!”

Later, when my other children would ask me how to spell a word, I would just say, “Really?” to which they would respond, “I know, I know, go look it up!”

The very first dictionary in the United States was published in 1806 by Noah Webster.  It was called “A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language.”

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Compendious*[kəmˈpendēəs]

Adjective

containing or presenting the essential facts of something in a comprehensive but concise way:

“a compendious study”

synonyms:  succinct, pithy, short and to the point, concise, compact, condensed

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In 1807, Webster began compiling a larger and more comprehensive dictionary and he worked on it for almost 30 years.  During this time, Webster learned 26 languages (including Old English) to better evaluate the origins and meaning of words.

 The “American Dictionary of the English Language” was completed in 1828 and contained seventy thousand words.   Webster was 70 years old when he finally published his comprehensive dictionary.  It sold 2500 copies.  I wonder where the English language would be today without the work of Noah Webster!

In the days before we had personal computers, cell phones and the internet as a quick resource, everyone had at least one dictionary in their home.

Our family’s dictionary moved all over our house depending on who needed it at the time.  I remember it open often on the kitchen table, the dining room table, the floor of the family room, on the kid’s beds, in my writing room, and one time, I even found it open in my daughter’s playhouse in the backyard.

Some items have been used so much and have been in our lives for so long, that they have become a part of the tapestry of our family history.  So, of course, the big dictionary is moving with us to the new house!

Author’s note:  If you also love words, you can go to the Merriam-Webster website and enter your email address to receive a “word of the day” in your inbox.  The address is:  www.merriam-webster.com

Artwork by Vicki Guess