In the middle of deciding what to clear and clean and get rid of first, chance cast my eyes at my ancient mariner of a computer, a Dell that's just a year younger than my 11-year-old. It has been a trooper, slogging along year after year with only one major meltdown (Mistake Edition crossed with a very bad vintage of Norton) but after Windows 2000 was installed instead this computer has been solid as a small mountain. And that's even after I decided to dual-boot the system to Linux/Windows 2K (Linux dominant) after deciding that I would never put Vista on any system in my system for any reason in the known and any possible unknown variants of the universe. No Vista + can't afford Apple = Linux variant Ubuntu. Love Ubuntu. Love it. I rate just above rocks when it comes to computer geekdom and Ubuntu has been very forgiving of that.
Time wears on us all, however, and the Dell is showing its age along with some predictable wear and tear. I'm not sure exactly why the computer screen is in perpetual, just-barely-noticeable waver mode. I'm not entirely certain the power supply is going to last too much longer. It's still stable enough that I can get it to turn on and I can probably get most of the data and I've known that I needed to do that for the better part of a year now, but it has been spending its days on a table, all hooked up and gathering dust. The night before last I finally got the impetus to poke the power button and start assigning files to the usb stick or to eternity's dustbin. It's been a pretty easy task so far. After all, the absence of these files hasn't exactly been earth-shattering for the last ten or eleven months. So there I was, tap-tapping at the keys like a dyspeptic raven, thinking that if I worked at this diligently I could scrap the hard drive and dispose of the other bits and pieces in about a week, when I realized that I wasn't exactly extracting data without an audience. Banshees. I was surrounded by Banshees, drawn by the eerie glow of the monitor, utterly fascinated.
"Mom," one finally said, "Can we play with this?"
Um. Okay. Just not tonight. Tomorrow?
Believe me, these kids have memories longer than the proverbial tail of time. They have internal clocks they set to some mysterious algorhythm. Sometime around o'dark thirty the next morning MB appeared at my right elbow. "Can I play with the computer now?"
So I set up an Open Office word document and told him to have at it. And he did.
Then EB and LB woke up and after half a morning's patience (a titanic effort in itself) asked for their turns. It got to the point where I needed a crowbar to pry them off of the keyboard long enough to get chores done. They showed each other how to Save and when to use Save As. Fights broke out over whose turn it was to play with their stories. I had to resort to the old stand-by: Pull out the timer and everybody gets a 30-minute turn.
Do you know how many tufts of hair I have pulled out trying to get these children to write? They have the most fascinating stories going on in their minds, but getting them to put that down on paper has been one of those epic battles the ancient Greeks used to shake their heads over. I guarantee Ulysses would have headed home to Penelope a lot sooner if he'd been charged with getting a trio of wayward Banshees to write something, anything, down. Turns out I was using the wrong tools. All I needed was a hugely outdated computer with some free office software and about 10 years of don't touch Mom's computer.