I just got off the phone with my aunt, my mother's older sister, who is the embodiment of quiet, unconditional love. A strong presence throughout my life that, while not always in direct sight (she still lives in NY, and I moved to Philadelphia), has always been felt. Our phone conversation made me recall one of the earliest gifts I can remember receiving (yes, even before my NES!): a mechanical typewriter that she bought for me. I hypothesize that this gift was one of the pivotal points in my life, perhaps the precise moment I considered my love of writing.
We reminisced on the phone, and I told her a story that I don't think I had ever told her. I recounted memories of writing short stories on loose-leaf paper in my room as a young child. Some were plays, some were Homeric epics, others were Pynchon-esque, Gravity's Rainbow-length (scaled to a 4-year-old, so like 1.75-page) works. But I always wrote them in pencil first; after all, who creates an immutable first draft? After carefully considering the burgeoning masterpiece on the parchment, I would write my second draft in pen. This lent more of a sense of permanence to the draft. It was in pen, so it had to be pretty good -- it was indelible.
BUT...but...when the work had fully taken shape, gone from a tremulous glob of clay on a potter's wheel to a beautiful vase (pronounced "vaaaaaaas"), it had to be published; this meant typing it out on pristine 8 1/2 x 11 paper on the mechanical typewriter. Percussive notes of metal on metal, barbaric, gutteral screams when horrid typos occurred, crumpling of paper from a neophyte's paper-loading job, and there it was -- a limited-edition, privately published, hand-bound, collectible Mustazza.
Were I making a feelgood family film, I might draw the camera back to a split-screen of the house, my father alone downstairs at the kitchen table working on his scholarly research for his own publications and me alone in my room crafting the fantastic. I guess I was more of an MFA-type.
Thanks, Aunt Nella. Your gift had a bigger impact than you know.