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Lucky Red Pencil


I went into the office this morning with Mom. She leaves the house at 7:00 am, which is really three hours before anyone should be moving, much less heading off to work. Really. When I asked her to wake me at 6:25, she looked at me oddly. "It means I can snooze a bit."

She looked at me harder.

"I'll be up."

"And ready to go by 7?"


And I was, but it was close. And surprising to Mom. I jumped in the shower at 6:47, and really a shower by me that is fewer than 23 minutes in length? Nearly unheard of.

When we arrived at the office, Mom was a little worried for me, how was I going to set up to work, would I be okay, could I work? I didn't have any problem working yesterday, so was surprised she was worried about me this morning. We talked a bit about the project she was working on, and I had an opportunity to introduce the word "metrics" more fully into her vocabulary, replacing "indicators" in her speech patterns.

I consider this a victory.

As Mom was heading out to a meeting, she turned to me and said, "Maybe you can help me. Can you look at my red pencil? Do you think you can fix it?"

She handed me her red mechanical pencil.

She thought the spring was worn out. When I opened up the barrel and dumped out the graphites, I noticed the gripper wasn't closing completely. Three minutes, one piece of paper, and two suggestions to try the shop which has a compressed air blower for cleaning items later, and I had removed the small piece of graphite that was preventing the grippers from closing correctly.

Thirty seconds after that, the pencil was reassembled and my mom had her lucky red pencil back.

Turns out, she's had that pencil for over twenty five years. It's been mistakenly taken by family and friends numerous times, but always returned. It's seen Mom across two different lives, three kids' six graduations, five houses, a half dozen jobs and a retirement. It's been her favorite and it's been her good-luck charm for a long, long time. She was surprisingly happy about my fixing it, which, of course, makes me happy, too.

Now, to find my mechanical pencil. Mine's black: a Pentel P205. Pretty sure it's in the garage.

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