When I was little, Christmas was a very low-key idea. My parents didn’t have any money, even though my Dad worked full time and my Mum worked a variety of part time jobs to make ends meet. Each year we’d drag the tatty Christmas tree and decades-old decorations down from the attic and try our best to make them look pretty. I remember paper lanterns in bright green and a weird orange colour held together by sticky tape (and sometimes staples!) hanging from the ceiling of our lounge. Every Christmas, we four kids would cut up strips of paper to make paper chains, as well as making snowflake designs to hang up to add to the cheer.
Presents were never anything extravagant. We all knew there was no point in asking for a bike or a computer or anything like that. We truly were the kids that were grateful for a chocolate bar, or a satsuma in our gifts. Talcum powder was a regular gift I received each year, which I would eke out all year until the next Yuletide when another tin would arrive!
But one year (I was probably around 10 years old) I can remember saying to my parents that I would love to have a typewriter. I’d been writing stories down on paper for ages, but thought the only way I would be a proper writer, would be if I had a proper typewriter. I felt it would make me ‘official’ and ‘real’. That somehow, my stories would be much better for having been hammered out on a machine, rather than flowing from my pen.
I didn’t hold out much hope. I’d looked in the Argos catalogue, I knew how expensive they could be. But I begged and begged my parents for one. When it got to my birthday in July, I told them not to get me anything, but to put it towards a typewriter for Christmas.
When Christmas arrived, I almost couldn’t contain myself. I kept telling myself to calm down. That I might get downstairs and only find the usual talcum powder and selection box and that I should be pleased I was even receiving those, but there was a small part of me that hoped more than anything that when I got downstairs there’d be a large present all wrapped and waiting under the tree.
And there was! And it was beautiful! A royal blue, Silver Reed typewriter, that came with a solid, black cover that clipped on over the top! I remember screaming and dancing with joy, doing a little jig in the front room, before finding a piece of paper to scroll into it, so I could start tap, tap tapping away!
It was second hand, but that didn’t matter to me. The ribbon barely had any ink left in it, but that didn’t matter either.
I loved that typewriter. And my parents house was filled with the sound of it, whenever I was home from school and at weekends as I wrote story after story after story, finally able to submit to magazines and newspapers because my work was typed and not handwritten.
That typewriter was the best present I ever received! I can still feel the joy, even now, of what it felt like, to open that gift! And that was the beginning for me. What I consider my ‘official’ beginning of me as a writer.
What was your best present ever? I’d love to hear all about it!
Merry Christmas to you all!
Louisa Heaton’s latest book is out late December, Their Unexpected Babies.