Four year-old Charley is not a dinosaur, dragon or tiger. Don’t even ask him to imitate one because if you do, as I did, he’ll politely look away with patience at first and a slight …
Four year-old Charley is not a dinosaur, dragon or tiger. Don’t even ask him to imitate one because if you do, as I did, he’ll politely look away with patience at first and a slight exasperation. And then he’ll lift his eyes, stare straight into your face, as he did mine, and in all seriousness flat-out tell you, “I’m a mechanic.”
Sometimes I go walking with Charley and his mom, Alexis. Charley peers through a crack in the sidewalk and I ask him if there’s a hole in there and he tells me, “No, there’s insulation”. I look into the hole and, of course, I only see a hole but I say nothing because Charley might be right. Besides, his enthusiasm in all things mechanical intrigues me.
The University of Virginia’s School of Medicine has been investigating past life possibilities in pre-school children for many decades. Knowledge of occurrences where children remember details of circumstances they could not have otherwise known are scrutinized and even tested by scientists. Clues can include an intimate awareness of places and people never encountered by the child, an extraordinary talent and/or a sophisticated understanding of a particular subject at a very young age.
I’m not suggesting that Charley had a past life as a mechanic, but I do wonder where his precociousness around motors and all things vented comes from. I know his father, Jon, takes stuff apart and shows Charley how things work. But, in my humble opinion, Charley is unusually interested in machining—in a good way—for a child his age. I grew up in a builder family with three brothers. Two went into engineering but as youngsters they were still more interested in cowboys, spacemen and dinosaurs.
On his first visit to my home, I offered Charley an assortment of free toys as a present. The toys included animal figures, crayons and bouncy balls. I understand that some kids may not be interested in animal figures and crayons, but all kids seem to love bouncy balls.
After side-glancing at the offering, Charley turned to me and in these exact words said, “Can I see your furnace?” For a moment, I thought I was making a grave mistake and that this four-year old was really here to service the furnace and that I had forgotten our appointment. Unfortunately, I couldn’t show the furnace to him because the basement floor was wet and I didn’t want him to slip. Instead I showed him the non-working wood burning stove in our outbuilding. He was not too impressed. However, he did become interested in the convection fan on top of the stove because, as we discussed, when the stove is on in wintertime, the fan turns without any electricity when heat rises.
“What’s that wire?” he asked.
“What wire?” I said.
“That one,” he said pointing to a wire that went from behind the blades to a screw on the back of the fan—something I’d never noticed in all the twenty years I owned and used it.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“It must conduct something,” he informed me. Indeed it must, I thought flummoxed as I followed Charley outside and across the yard. As we passed by my house he crouched down to look into the basement window.
“Is that the water heater?” he asked pointing to our water heater.
“Is it vented?”
“I don’t know.”
“It looks like it’s vented,” he said and then stood up and asked, “Do you have a generator?” At this point I was absolutely convinced I had forgotten that I had hired this four-year old contractor to come to our house and evaluate everything mechanical so I responded, “No, would you like to install one for us? We’ve been wanting one for a long time.”
“Yes,” he responded without missing a beat and then he added, “I can also service it.”
As a parting gift, I gave Charley a broken fan. He was very excited. “Is the motor electromagnetic? Does it have gears? Is it copper-wire wrapped? Does it have a filter?” were just some of the questions he asked. The package of animal figures, crayons and bouncy balls will probably go to his older brother. For our next visit, I will show Charley the furnace and the water heater close-up. I’ll also show him our whole-house water treatment system that purifies and adds ozone to the water. He’ll probably ask about the electrical panel but we’ll wait on that one. In ten years, maybe even sooner, I’m planning that Charley will be our handyman. In the meantime, he could certainly be our advisor.