Freelance by Jen

Consider me the No More Tangles of your writing needs.

Hi. Please forgive me for the appearance of this blog. I’m pretending I know what I’m doing from a graphic-design standpoint, and in starting to dig into website templates, I inadvertently deleted my old design and can’t even find the damn thing now.

Anyway, in looking at things that spoke to me from a hey-that-looks-cool way (aside from pictures of donuts and color palettes that reminded me of frosting and fonts that looked like delicious pastries – if these exist please hit me in the comments), only one header actually grabbed my attention immediately.

It was a picture of an ol’ Smith Corona typewriter. And it took me right back into time. Like, way back to the early 80s.

When I was a kid, I always wanted to type at my dad’s office. The keys were so loud and clacky and important-sounding, and I was an early adopter of Liquid-Paper-scent addiction. I can’t imagine how high I probably got opening countless bottles and breathing, deeply and repeatedly and directly, over the little opening. I just loved that smell, and the association of “writing” so, so much. That and the scent of fresh ink when I couldn’t get typewriter time in were my favorite smells (well, and the smell of my Little Granddad’s garage, and gasoline).

I never liked flowers, but I always loved grass (the kind on the ground. I definitely never cared for the smell of weed). I never liked the scent of Avon perfumes, but I loved the unique bottles they came in and have them all saved, from Mother Goose to the Gingerbread Man to the Frog Sheriff, in my dresser to this day.

I also reallllly loved the scent, and taste, of water from the garden hose.

Basically, if it turned out later to be dangerous, I probably loved sucking the smell right up into my face.

But I digress.

I loved my house (we had a pool and lots of grown-over yard spaces to make little “clubhouses,” plus neighbors that we nightly played hide-and-go-seek and honest-to-God kick the can with), but my dad’s old-fashioned office on the town square was where I preferred to be. I could type there. I could hide in the little space under the desk-behind-his-desk. I could hide in his vault where he kept records (he’s a CPA), though I didn’t much care for THAT smell. Connected to his office on each side were storefronts he also owned, so I got to know Mr. Koester from Koester’s Kut and Klip, got to explore a variety of wares in the series of flea markets that took the larger space next door, got to listen to, and peruse, a whole lot of vinyl when he had his music store in the early-mid 80s, called The Record Rack.

The town was small enough, and our house close enough, that I was allowed to walk back and forth to the square from my house by the time I was nine, which was also when I started free-babysitting my six-year-old brother and new baby sister for short stretches of time, until my sister was three and cut off her own bangs under my care. My mom stayed home with us unless she was working at the office during tax season or volunteering at the church or school or shelter. She put together a lot of puzzles, burned a lot of incense even though neither of my parents drank or smoked anything, and played a lot of Gordon Lightfoot.

I’m not sure if it was having such a rock-solid little world that aided in making me so socially-averse, but at no point in my life did I find it easy to leave my family safety net and make friends.

I remember my eighth birthday in particular, when my dad’s whole family came over to have cake and open my presents in front of them. I was terrified. I remember that Big Granddad (my dad’s dad was Big Granddad; my mom’s, Little Granddad. One was tall, one was short.) gave me a wooden baseball bat. Everyone stared at me for my reaction, and I took it, stood up, and very quietly walked upstairs, stumping it on each step like a cane, feeling their confused eyes boring into me.

And I didn’t come back down.

It was also in third grade that I became the target of a girl gang for the first time. Not knowing how to really assimilate within groups of girls my own age, I would usually go hang out under the huge tree at the back edge of the elementary school playground, or play kickball with the boys because you could line up and pretend like you were running after balls to kick them back, but then not actually do that. There was no talking, it was built-in social distancing, and it was perfect.

So anyway, girls didn’t play kickball. They stood together in groups on the playground and talked, or pushed each other on the swings and talked. I didn’t know the first thing to say to any of them. I didn’t even do my own hair or honestly even pick out my own clothes – my mom did that stuff for me (until middle school, when I turned into a raving bitch who only wanted to wear one giant sweat-outfit because I got really tall and big really fast and learned the pain of the “Husky” clothing label).

Because I didn’t play with them or talk to them, they (logically) assumed I was “stuck up”. (that was the parlance of the early-to-mid-eighties).

Fourth grade and fifth grade were the same. In sixth grade, a new, very quiet, very shy girl moved to town and we glommed together like two people in an ocean of hormones and a single piece of social-pariah driftwood do. (Mary Beth remained my go-to friend all the way through high school and is now a veterinarian. We’re both terrible socially and have gone entire years between conversations. Best friend ever.)

And so I got through high school without ever trying drugs or getting drunk, and then went to a small college. There were campus parties. There was sorority rushing. I hated every bit of it and dropped out after one semester.

While I’ll fill in the blanks a little more tomorrow with the years from 1993 to now (I know! What an exciting prospect!), I will say that I’ve adapted to people a little better in those intervening decades, mostly due to a series of pretty awful events that taught me to appreciate life.

I didn’t say it was interesting.

But for now, I will add that listening to my extroverted stepson in the next room make a series of ever-louder mouth sounds in a quest to get attention almost makes me envious of those who will never know the terror of coming across another person unexpectedly and not knowing what to say. Of being at a party where you don’t know anyone, and can’t leave, and you have no idea what the hell to do.

As I’ve mentioned before, being sequestered at home has been the best thing that could ever happen to the socially awkward. And being sequestered with two twin children dying to be social who just sprayed a pound of Axe body spray on each other can be kind of the worst. Even though I love them.

The point is, is Liquid Paper still sold anywhere?

Movie of the Day: The Paper, Amazon Prime. I wanted to be Glenn Close in this movie so much, and I love Michael Keaton’s entire catalog.

Show of the Day: Ryan Does Places, Amazon Prime. This is like traveling when you can’t travel. And Ryan is the most enthusiastic guide ever. And these are short.

Song of the Day: Pinwheel theme song. Waxing nostalgic will do this to you. When you’re a kid in a time of three channels only, and they’re all adult shows, the advent of a kid’s show that’s not just shown on Saturday mornings, but every weekday, can be a life-changer. Any Pinwheel kids out there? Let’s talk, online only.

*Liquid Paper photo courtesy of The Atlantic.

2 thoughts on “Table for one, please.

  1. cindy says:

    ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS. YOU ARE SO AWESOME. THIS WAS JUST WONDERFUL. JEN YOU ARE SO NICE AND KIND I ADORE YOU.

    Like

  2. Sue Ellen Novak says:

    😢❤️

    Like

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