Sign of the times

There’s thousands of dollars worth of entertainment for my little darlings sitting on shelves and strewn across the floors of our house – planes, trains and automobiles, musical instruments, blocks, balls, and bats – you name it, we probably have it.

The loudest, flashiest toys are the most seductive, all dolled up in their primary colors, those sluts. Julia has this piano that, unless it’s turned off, will suddenly start blinking and screaming out of nowhere.

Dave and I are convinced that the manufacturer secretly set it to start randomly playing on its own in order to lure our children to it, who suck the battery juice from it and force us to go buy more goddamn batteries, which, in turn, makes us wonder why the fuck we haven’t invested in battery stock already.

I didn’t have toys like these when I was a kid. I had crayons and paper, a colander and a kitchen sink full of water and my mom’s pantyhose that I put on my head and pretended the legs were actually my long, flowing locks of hair.

I had an Etch-a-Sketch that I called a Stashinator and thought was the shit and on days when she was this close to plopping me on the curb with a sign around my neck that read, “Free to Good Home”, my mom used to bust out her hot rollers and let me play with them and her hairpins. Jackpot.

The best, though, was this broken old typewriter my dad had that was his father’s. My grandfather died years before I was born and since my father rarely spoke of him and my mom couldn’t tell a story about him without winding up in tears, the fact that the typewriter was his made it all the more alluring.

My father used to let me sit in the hallway of the apartment he rented after my parents separated with the typewriter in the doorway, on top of the welcome mat, so I could play Bank. It weighed a ton and when he pulled it out of my bedroom closet and carried it to the hall for me, his mouth pulled to a frown and his arms straining under its weight, I thought he looked like an ape.

I loved that stupid typewriter. I wonder what my father ever did with that thing. We didn’t get a computer until I was in college but my mom and I always had a typewriter kicking around the house. I loved feeding a fresh piece of paper into the reel and hearing the satisfying snap of letters getting punched on the page.

I got to be really good at hunting and pecking and would spend hours typing out short stories or letters to my pen pals; I was aware that since I hadn’t finished high school I should be working hard towards my GED test, but while going through my mom’s filing cabinet after she died I found a folder full of stories I’d typed dating back to the mid-eighties.

A while ago, we were having corn on the cob with dinner and Julia couldn’t quite grasp the concept of biting across the cob lengthwise – she was trying to eat it like a Popsicle and Dave’s tutorials weren’t helping.

Finally I grabbed a cob, held it at either end and said, “Hold it like this and take a bunch of bites in a row, like a typewriter. Watch.” As I demonstrated I marveled at my brilliant corn/typewriter analogy. She’ll know exactly what I mean now, I thought. I kick ass! I finished the row and wiped my mouth. “See?” I said, bits of corn hanging from my teeth. Julia stared blankly at me for a second and scrunched up her face. “What’s a typewriter?” Now there’s a sign of the times.

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