Last weekend I acquired a typewriter.
You can ask me how. Don’t ask me why.
Two weekends ago I was at an estate auction. It was a nearly hundred acre farm with a dilapidated house and barn filled with treasures. While walking through the house, I noticed an old typewriter. It was a big black desktop standard, with those beautiful old glass-topped keys that peg it as no newer than the 1930s. Upon closer inspection, the insides were filled with dust, dirt, and grime. Still, when I tapped a key, the typebar flew.
Growing up, my mom had a typewriter. It was a big, plastic, electric typewriter from the 1980s. Nothing special to look at, but it worked. When I was a kid, I would sometimes sit on the floor in the living room and type on it. Mostly notes from things I had read. I was writing little stories back then, but I mostly handwrote those. Still, there was something exciting about the typewriter…the clack of the keys, the violent movement of the carriage swinging into position at the end of the line. When you wrote on a typewriter, it felt like work. You could see your progress in the pages stacking up.
When I was in junior high, my parents bought our family’s first computer, and we slid the typewriter beneath my bed and forgot all about it.
Yet I never got around to throwing it away. When I moved out, I inexplicably took it with me. It stayed under the bed in my current house. Year after year, it survived my spring cleaning and decluttering. I don’t know why, as I never used it. It just somehow seemed too precious to throw away.
And let me be clear—I am not usually sentimental about things. Whatever the opposite of a hoarder is, that’s me. I throw things away I still need just for the pleasure of decluttering. So I wasn’t keeping the typewriter just because I never throw anything away.
But last year, I did throw it away. I pulled it out one day when my friend’s young daughter was over, thinking she’d get a kick out of click-clacking away on the keys. She did—for about five minutes—and then the motor made a final dying moan and gave out. As I mourned silently, she asked if I had an iPad.
So maybe that’s why the auction typewriter caught my eye. But I put it out of my mind. Lots of things catch my eye at auctions, and I usually forget all about them. I wasn’t present when the typewriter was sold, which I counted as a good thing, since I probably would’ve bought it.
But for days afterwards I regretted it. What would you do with an old typewriter? I kept asking myself, and coming up with no answer. Still, I kept on thinking about it.
Then a week later I showed up at my friend Tammy’s house. The typewriter was sitting on her kitchen table, and she was grinning. Joy surged through me.
Turns out she knew the woman who’d bought the typewriter. She cleans them up and resells them on Etsy. When Tammy told her how much I wished I’d bought it, she gave it to Tammy for what she’d paid for it.
So now I am the proud owner of an old, grimy, dusty 1920s Woodstock typewriter.
She couldn’t be more beautiful.
There’s still a little ink in the ribbon, the keys and typebars work. The carriage doesn’t advance, but I’ve got a few ideas from the internet on how to fix that.
I’ve got a place picked out to display her once I get her cleaned up. I’ve got her torn apart and am cleaning her, piece by piece, until she shines.
If I can get her working again, that’ll be a bonus.
At this point, if I get her properly put back together, it’ll be a miracle.