daughterboard n. a small printed circuit board that attaches to a larger one
It is a little known fact that I once worked in a factory soldering mother and daughterboards all day. It was for 6 months after my father was diagnosed with a brain tumor and I did not go away to college as planned. Since we didn’t know if he would live much longer, it was important for me to stay home. My father was the provider in our family before he became ill. My mother had worked here and there when I was a kid, but her jobs hardly paid the bills. It was necessary for me to work and bring in money right after my father had brain surgery and so I worked with my aunt who was the manager of a factory in Little Ferry, New Jersey.
Those 6 months of soldering boards were the hardest yet most valuable months of my life. I had spent most of the summer preceding it anticipating college life. To say the least I did not expect my father to have brain surgery and given a death sentence. As much as I was disappointed that I had to work, the soldering and assembly that I worked on at the factory brought a sense of order to my days. I remember sitting at my bench listening to the radio and soldering each tiny circuit one by one onto the boards. I was actually very skilled and perfected just the right amount of solder that I needed to get the perfect weld. I used to solder dozens of boards a day. There was such a sense of satisfaction when the bell rang at 4 pm seeing the pile of work I had completed. It’s a satisfaction I rarely attain from work to this day.
Eventually, I was put on the telephones – which I didn’t like as much. I frequently hung up on people by accident and I didn’t like acting cheerful and chipper to strangers constantly. My boss wouldn’t let me read when the phones were dead so I collated instruction manuals.
During my 6 months as a factory worker, my father’s health improved. He had lost most of his eye sight since the tumor was in his occipital lobe, but the rest of his brain functioned well and his body was strong. He knew I needed to go away to school…that if I didn’t I would likely be stuck working in a factory in New Jersey. So when January came we rented a mini van with my aunt, my mother, brother and my father and drove to Providence to move into my dorm room – a semester behind everyone else. It was a proud day for me – much different from my previous trips to visit the school. My father and I had driven to Providence my senior year in high school several times for orientation and my interview. We always rented a car and I would nap in the back seat so I would be in good shape for my interview. I still remember the peach air freshener and NPR playing on the radio. Whenever I smell those little peach tree air fresheners, I think of dad.
I suppose the reason I digress is because I never thought that working in a factory for 6 months would serve me well in life, but I often find myself thinking about those days – especially when I was working before Graham was born. I find it so strange that often times the events in life we are most embarrassed and ashamed of are the most important and formative. They are the most honest accounts of our lives and represent our most intrinsic qualities.