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01 December 2016

That's all write, Mama

Typewriter250
(Courtesy: www.etsy.com)

Bonnie Ratliff, my mother, was quiet and reserved unless wronged or riled.  She was also an excellent, creative cook who could sling a mean hash and make a plain cake so special I can still taste it quite a few  years after we lost her.

We never called her Mom, and I'm not sure why.  That being said, Mother made too many sacrifices for me to count as my older brother and I spent our formative years in the noisy, engine-revving, windows rattling shadows of an aircraft plant in Grand Prairie, Texas.

Three major things Mother did for me, though, changed my life and greatly influenced who I am, what I am today.  No, make that four.  There's the whole birth thing, you know.

I've written about how my mom loved movies.  Many hours spent on the crinkly, plastic-covered couch sharing late-late-show movies with her in the glow of our TV spawned my deep love and appreciation for cinema and, of course, a mother who would take the time to spend quality time with a son.

Not one to socialize much, especially with strangers, Mother preferred to spend her idle time in her old green rocker with wooden arms (on the chair, not Mother) sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes, especially in her later years.  When I was about 12, though, Mother left the comfort of our modest home to venture into the towering cement canyons of downtown Dallas to work as a keypunch operator.

The reason:  I had crooked teeth in need of braces.  We couldn't afford them.  So, in her usual semi-stoic manner, Mother went out and got them by joining the office work force.  And when that was all done, she perked a fresh pot of coffee, fired up a Salem, settled back into her green rocker and never mentioned it again.

I don't remember exactly when the old, supposedly "refurbished" black Royal typewriter (not nearly as sleek and clean as the one pictured above), showed up.  It gathered dust for a while, but eventually Mother suggested that I might want to write something on it.  Looking back, I discovered that in the late 1930s and probably in the '40s and '50s the Royal Typewriter Company ran an ad with a girl sitting in front of a sparkling new Royal standard machine.

The message:  "Can a typewriter help your child to think?"

Mybookcover231I can answer that one for them.  I thought about a lot of things sitting in front of that almost worn out machine with sticky keys that would often attack the paper in groups of twos or threes.  I thought about being outside with my buddies playing marbles or exchanging "funny" (comic) books or flying kites or playing ball.  I thought about why I didn't seem to mind as much as I did previously when a girl in the neighborhood wanted to join the boys for whatever the adventure of the day might be.

Finally, I decided to write some of those thoughts down on paper by banging on that old typewriter.  I haven't stopped since, and I think of Mother almost every time I write something.

My first book, a collection of humorous and sometimes poignant essays titled "Did I Write That Out Loud?:  We Might As Well Laugh, It's Only Life" was published about this time last year.   If you're interested, here's a link to it on Amazon.com

I've been invited to discuss my book on Bert Martinez's nationally streamed radio show "Money For Lunch," which reaches approximately 200,000 listeners per week.  If you'd like to tune in, it's Tuesday (Dec. 6) at 10:15 Central Standard Time.  Just click this link to listen live.  (Look for the "Listen In Now!" section at the bottom right of the web page and click on the triangle icon.)

I'm honored, Bert.  Thanks for the invitation.  It's just too bad it's not TV.  That way I could show off the straightened teeth Mother went out and bought for me.

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