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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Private Moments

In the movies that feature large families such as in “Cheaper by the Dozen” there are often key scenes that emphasize the chaos that can occur with so many children. In truth these movies aren't far off the mark although they tend to make the chaos more humorous than it actually seems to be in a real-life. These movies also often have key scenes where a parent has a meaningful moment alone with just one of the children. In a large family these private moments can have a deep meaning and be as pleasureful as a hot bath after a week of camping. What adds to the pleasure of these private moments in a large family is that these private moments can randomly happen with any one of so many children. With each child being so different each of these moments has its own flavor, smell, and texture—each a peculiar treat.

It wasn't too long ago that I started my own computer services company. By “company” don't think anything grand—this was pretty much a one-man band. At one point, when it looked like my business was going under, I was blessed with an opportunity to accept the contracts to install networks at a chain of tire stores around the state. This was a great opportunity and one that I had to accept for survival. The problem was that I had little experience in installing networks. A greater problem was that I had no partner to help me with these installations. Without a partner I would have had to turn down the contract. In desperation I looked around for someone affordabble who could help me. I had two sons in college who could do the job very nicely, but they couldn't take full days off from school. My focus then fell upon my thirteen-year-old daughter. She was already helping me on some days in the shop and she showed a precociousness with computers. She willingly accepted my invitation to accompany me on these installations.

I was worried at first about what the men working at these Big O Tire centers would think when their installer showed up with a thirteen-year-old girl as an assistant. It certainly wouldn't look very professional. This turned out not to be a problem. They accepted her right away and often gave her pet names such as “trouble.” I think they were charmed seeing this young woman pulling computers out of boxes, setting up workstations, assigning ip addresses and configuring network printers. They treated her with respect.

Over the course of two months my daughter accompanied me on twelve installations around the state. We would start very early in the morning in the van with a ladder strapped on the roof and the back stuffed with tool box, cable, fish tape and other needed accoutrements. Clorinda would study math, science, or literature on the way to the job. We had the opportunity to discuss algebraic expressions, vertebrates, and verb phrases on these mornings. Once at the jobs we would dive into a routine that we developed that worked very well for us. She would find an appropriate place with power and an internet connection to set up and configure the computers while I started scoping out the cable pulls and cutting cable. Sometimes I would find her surrounded by computer equipment squished between racks of tires. Other times she would be on the floor of the manager's office next to boxes of financial records. These places were always a bit dirty with rubber dust covering everything. Clory's hands would turn black and, when she peeked at me from over the top of a monitor I would see black smudges on her face.

When the time came I would call Clory to help me pull the network cables through conduit, across drop ceilings, or under floors. Often she would squeeze inside a cupboard where the cable entered or exited in order to reach it. Her legs would be intertwined with the ankles of the salesmen who were taking care of customers at the desk above her. In one BigO she negotiated the six-inch top of a wall for thirty feet with a drop ceiling below on one side of her and racks of tires on the other side in order to get a cable to the other end of the room. She was able to use steel rafters as hand holds to steady her. There were moments when we were actually able to work together putting the RJ-45 connectors on the end of the cables. This was careful work as we had to put the color-coded wires in the right order (white-green, green, white-orange, blue, etc. ), snip them to the right length and then crimp them securely. When we plugged them into the cable tester and all the lights lighted properly we would look at each other with happy pride.

At the end of the days we would finish labeling the cables, gather our tools and cable, and tiredly strap the ladder back onto the roof of the van. With a two-hour drive home ahead of us we would find a Sizzler or a Pizza Hut in which to relax and eat. After washing the blackness off our faces and hands we would meet at the table and chat aimlessly, yet delightfully, while we ate our food. As I looked into her bright face and gray-green eyes and bask in her subtly animated personality in spite of the hard day's work I figure what a lucky man to have such an experience with a child of mine.

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