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February 7, 2011

I have a new job, and it’s my daughter’s homework. I’m good at it. I come by this honestly, having enlisted my own mother in writing many of my high school papers (we did not call it writing, but rather ‘talking it over’, ‘getting it straight’, ‘brainstorming’ or some such euphemism). My high school history papers were really good.  My mother was a great writer, a crack typist, and we spent many long evenings with the onion skin paper wrapped around the cylinder, me pacing the kitchen, she bent over the typewriter, words flying, me saying ‘no! I didn’t mean that!’, her saying ‘no, this is better, trust me.’ She was at the helm, and she was right.

At college 1,000 miles away I was on my own, but she was still with me tilting a phrase this way and that, searching for the right word.

Cut to my kitchen, my daughter and I good-naturedly fighting over words, she with the thesaurus an icon on her desktop, offering up what is usually not the right word, though — like the wrong suitor — it’s close. Cut to me emailing her paper to her at school, at her dad’s house, so she can print it; me ferrying her 40 pounds of books to wherever she needs them. And the best little scene: me driving off with her hardbound copy of Little Women on the roof of the car, realizing it must have flown off and looking for it in the snow, she calling out: “Back up! I saw a square-shaped hole in the snow, maybe it’s there!” We never find the book, we buy another. We say to ourselves, maybe someone will find it, hopefully not too swollen and wilted, and read it. It will be our little gift.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Matt Nicodemus permalink
    February 7, 2011 2:27 am

    Ah, I loved that onion skin paper! It definitely added to the heft of a paper, even while reducing its weight. But whiteout used on it was forever visible, leaving opaque patches that blocked backlight’s penetration. Better to use one of those ink erasers with the bristle brush at the other end.

    • February 8, 2011 1:18 am

      It was tissue-light, always getting stuck in the cylinder at an angle and hell to erase. The later the hour, the more likely an error would appear on the last precarious line, as by then even if set in perfectly straight the paper was invariably tilted, jerked out and retyped with a sigh. It was my first relationship with a machine — wait, take that back, first I knew a sewing machine and found it equally trying.

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