We’ve all had life changing moments, or gifts given to us that have forever changed us, but sometimes only many years later do we realize their powerful effects. Because I am a memoirist, I often write about special moments in my life and wonder about their impact on our lives.
These special events may be turning points or impactful events that are difficult to forget. They might be events which were springboards for something larger that happened in our lives. Two life-changing events inspired my passion for writing. The first was my grandmother teaching me how to type on her Remington typewriter, and the second was finding her journal which we found in her closet years after she passed away.
I was ten years old when my grandmother committed suicide. A few years before she died, she taught me how to type on the black Remington typewriter which was perched on the vanity in her room beside mine. Each morning, I knocked on her door for a morning kiss. She then took my hand and we’d walk down to the kitchen for breakfast. One morning when I was about six years old, instead of immediately heading downstairs, she invited me into her room.
“Have a seat,” she said,” pointing me to her vanity chair.
“I’m going to teach you how to type. This is a handy skill for a girl to have, plus you never know what kind of stories you’ll want to tell one day.”
She stood behind me with her image glowing in the mirror. She took my right hand and positioned it on the second row of keys from the bottom, carefully placing one finger on each letter, repeating the same gesture with my left hand.
“This is the position your fingers should be in. When you become a good typist, you won’t even have to look at the letters while you’re typing. Okay, dear, let’s see if we can type your name.”
With my left middle finger she had me press on the “D.” Then we moved to the right middle finger and moved up a row to type an “I.” Then my pinky pressed the “A” and then something really tricky had to happen—I had to move my right thumb down to the bottom row to type an “N.” Then my left pinky typed an “A.” After each letter I glanced up at the paper to see the impression of my efforts. After reaching the last “A”, I proudly looked up at my grandmother’s face in the mirror.
“You see, you did it!” she said, squeezing my shoulders.
“Like anything in life, the more you practice, the better you’ll become. You must work hard to get results; you’ll learn that soon enough, my love.”
This seemingly trivial gesture on her part instilled my own lifelong commitment to the written word. I still have a replica of my grandmother’s typewriter and it is a continuous reminder of the love for words she left with me, and even though I lost her when I was quite young, she left me with a lifelong gift, love for the written word.
The next life-changing event was when twenty years after when my parents were getting ready to move from my childhood home, while packing up, they found in my grandmother’s closet her journal she’d written after emigrating from Vienna in the early 1930s. Only after reading that document did I really understand the deep roots of her depression, which tormented her entire life, and eventually led to her suicide at the age of sixty-one.
I tucked the journal away, but pulled it when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The details of her tragic life drew me close to her and distracted me from my own struggles. Her powerful words about being orphaned during World War I, pulled me in. She watched soldiers march through her town and kill young children playing in the streets.
I realized how I had never connected with another woman in the same way. I was an extension of her. Those ten years she’d cared for me, planted the seeds for my writing, and interestingly enough, she taught me how to type. I remember the day as if it were yesterday.Browse Front PageShare Your Idea