Eularee Smith
Writer & Educator

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They are only things

I have had to remind myself of late that downsizing is not such a bad thing. At least on the surface it all makes sense. Clean up the clutter. Rearrange. Out with the old in with the new. Less to dust, clean or put away. I even have rules. If you haven't worn it, used it, played with it or loaned it in more than two years, it goes into the Goodwill box. They are only things.

But I am mostly all talk. Sure, there are clothes, shoes, even a few books like "How to make the most of your Mac Classic", that need to come out of moth balls and hop away from the dust bunnies. Those things are not the problem. Then there are the things that go beyond the word "thing". They have personalities, stories; a history filled with memories that the Goodwill couldn't possibly put a price on. 

One of those things is an Underwood typewriter no. 5 that sits on my bookshelf. Kids are fascinated by it, pushing the keys down and watching the linkage fling the letter onto a smudgy black ribbon, leaving an impression of the letter on the paper. Magic, as far as a child is concerned. But other than its curiosity appeal, the heavy cast iron machine has not seen the likes of its former glory days in decades. Nonetheless it stands proudly as a reminder of the thousands of hours my father's fingers touched the keys and all the stories as a result.

It is a bear to dust, but I do it lovingly. They keys become stuck and the letters entwined. But I gently lift and pull them apart so they may rest in their proper position. The ribbons are impossible to find. My father moved on to computers long before he died but still he never sold or gave away the Underwood typewriter. He even called himself "The Underwood man" and whenever technology failed, he would swear he was going to get out the Underwood. When he passed away, I found boxes of stories, manuscripts and letters laboriously typed on the machine that gave life to the words that flowed from his hands.

How do you leave those treasures in the Goodwill box? I suppose someday, that is exactly where it will find itself. Or perhaps some great great grandchild will bring the old cast iron soul to an Antiques Roadshow and be shocked by the appraisal. But for now the Underwood typewriter is one of the items in my home that is not a thing and certainly not for eBay. And try as I might to rid myself of all those "only things" that surround me with clutter, the Underwood will always have a place to tell its story for generations. Who cares what's in your wallet? The real question is, what's in your attic?

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