Monday, December 25, 2006


"I want a hippopotamus for Christmas.
Only a hippopotamus will do...."

Merry Christmas Day! I must have been a good girl all year 'cause Santa left me lots of beautiful gifts under my little gold tree. I remember one Christmas, though, when I was very disappointed with what I found under the tree...

When I was a teenager it was common for kids to have a 'curfew'. I remember rushing home from a night out with friends, coming up the front steps, straining to hear the radio. If the ten o'clock news was on, I knew I'd made it on time. Friday and Saturday nights I was allowed to be out until midnight, no later. It wasn't always easy making these deadlines. For me, Time, as in numbers on a clock, meant nothing when I was absorbed in a fantastical adventure and having fun. I hated being a clock-watcher. It was like living my life as Cinderella. Maybe I'd turn into a pumpkin when the clock struck the dreaded midnight hour. Probably I'd get heck from my parents and be grounded.

I was always late for school, a chronic daydreamer, a dawdler. Why rush when there were roses to smell, places to explore, and interesting things to stop and observe? Watches and clocks verified this character flaw in me. They told the time. They pointed out that I was the Late One, the White Rabbit, Cinderella.

I started writing at an early age. By the time I was fifteen I had a stack of novellas handwritten in textbooks. What I wanted most was a typewriter. Christmas was coming. I put out hints to my parents and spent many hours daydreaming about my typewriter, imagining how it would change my life. My dream was to become a newspaper journalist. I went to sleep at night with the sound of keys tapping out the 10,000 words of my next novel. If only I had a typewriter: one with a bell that clanged when you threw the platen across, and keys that smacked in the rhythm of the words I would write, and a ribbon that printed in both black or red.

That Christmas, the usual mounds of presents were under the tree. But there wasn't anything as large as a typewriter. I figured Mom had hidden it somewhere. She was good at keeping Christmas surprises. I was certain that on Christmas morning, the typewriter would appear magically under the Christmas tree.

You can imagine my deep disappointment when Christmas morning came and there was no typewriter among the presents, just a small, rectangular gift-wrapped box, my gift from Mom and Dad. I opened it. Inside was a gold wristwatch with an expandable wrist band and dainty oval face. Not only was it NOT a typewriter, but it told the TIME! And to make matters worse, I could tell it was definitely not a new watch!

Mom saw I was disappointed. She was disappointed too, because I plainly did not like her gift. "It's a very expensive watch," she said."We found it at a pawnshop. It's the best make of watch there is. Although it isn't new, it's almost like new. And it keeps perfect time!"

I felt guilty for being so ungrateful. After all, my parents thought they were getting me something special and practical. They didn't realize how much I hated watches. Watches, the dreaded symbol of a curfew, a restriction on my adventurous spirit! Now I'd have absolutely no excuse for being late. I'd turn into the White Rabbit, looking at my watch every hour to see what time it was.Christmas wasn't exactly what I had dreamed that year. But the following summer, for my sixteenth birthday, I got my wish. A real Underwood typewriter, second-hand, but in good working order. And it was just like the ones reporters use. I could be a real writer at last!

Time marches on. My aversion to time and time pieces have carried on over the years. I still find myself rushing to appointments, getting there by the skin of my teeth as the clock ticks on, its accusing hands pointing to the fact that I'm five or ten minutes late. I detest being a clock-watcher, fleeing like Cinderella from the Ball. I rarely wear watches. If necessary, I carry a small travel alarm.

I'm a published writer now. I have a computer, and the keyboard doesn't make that exciting loud clacking sound like the old Underwood did, but it still produces a gentle click to the rhythm of the words I type. And in my jewellery box, I have a gold watch with an expandable wristband, and dainty oval face -- one almost exactly like the watch my parents gave me that Christmas so many years ago. Except this wristwatch is one that belonged to my mother. Every time I look at it, I am reminded of her, and of that Christmas when I was so disappointed not to get a typewriter. And I remember the old Underwood I got for my birthday, all those hours I spent alone in my room, typing, so totally absorbed in those other worlds that there was a sense of TIMELESSNESS. Even now, when I am writing, I forget where I am, miss meals, lose myself in a place where there are no watches or clocks and Time stands still.

Have a holly, jolly Christmas
It's the best time of the year.
I don't know if there'll be snow
but have a cup of cheer.
Have a holly, jolly Christmas
And when you walk down the street
Say hello to friends you know
and everyone you meet.


Debra Young said...

A typewriter! That was my Christmas gift wish one year and my parents, bless 'em, got me one. A Smith Corona--I have fond memories of that little machine. I spent hours every day pounding out my novel--a science fiction spy story set on Mars! LOL! d:)

Wynn Bexton said...

Imagine my thrill when I noted (when I visited his homes in Chile) that Pablo Neruda used an old Underwood like the one I had. I believe Ernest Hemingway (my novelist idol) also wrote on one like that. I have such fond memories of that first typewriter and all the hours we spent together in my bedroom immersed in other worlds. I still have the red Brother portable which I used while I lived in Greece too. I refuse to discard it. (Wish I still had that old Underwood - such a museum piece now!)