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The Roundtable

Listener Essay - The Chain


  Christine McCue is a mother of three, an attorney for children, and the founder of "For Kids - From Kids", a child-to-child book donation initiative designed to foster an appreciation for kindness, literacy, civic duty, and self-empowerment in elementary school children using a pay-it-forward model. She lives in Schoharie, NY.

The Chain

My hand was full of a pile of papers ready to be clipped. I reached into my desktop supply organizer to grab a paper clip. I felt one, grabbed it and pulled. With that single paper clip came all its aunts, uncles, and cousins. Like when a magician reaches into his pocket to retrieve a hanky and a lengthy polyester rainbow appears instead. They were deftly hooked, one paper clip on to another, forming a lengthy chain. “I don’t have time for this,” I thought. After all, I have a motion that has to get out today, I haven’t even touched my call sheet yet, and I can’t remember the last time I vouchered a case. I don’t have time to sit and pull paper clips apart from each other.

I took a closer look. “Damn it.” My seven year old son Jake had done a particularly thorough job with his chain. It had to be Jake because the culprit hadn’t just hooked each clip to the outside portion of the next paper clip. No, he had wound it all around into the interior of each. Very proper, very secure. Very thorough.

After I had unlatched enough paper clips to finish the task at hand, I resolved to sit and undo Jake’s paper clip chain so that I didn’t have to deal with it at a later date. Who really wants to telephone people on the call sheet anyway? If I really wanted to call them, I wouldn’t need a sheet to remind me.

I sat there looking at the chain. “When had he even had time to do this?” Worried, I thought “Where was I when he was doing this?” I paused, now growing paranoid. “What else has he been up to?” In the past I have found snakes, lizards, and spiders in various locations around my house and office; thankfully all of the rubber variety so far. Some even rainbow colored which is helpful in muting my initial primordial scream. It might be nice to have a fingerprint kit around the house, but Jake’s smirk always gives him away.

There had to be 100 paper clips chained together, with a binder ring hung on the end for good measure. He is a clever imp. Here I am sitting in my office in the middle of the day when I should be thinking of how to solve everyone else’s real and imagined emergencies and my little 7 year old makes me stop and think of him. Not deadlines, not judges, not attorneys, not other people’s children...him, my child. What a luxury to be able to think of my own child during the daylight hours.

Why was I going to unchain them? What a wonderful gift this was. When my daughter was little she had done the very same thing. “I wonder if any of these paper clips were ones that she originally chained.” It certainly was a possibility. I don’t use too many paper clips, being more of a staple lady myself. I start to wonder as I sit in my office holding the chain, “How’s she doin’?” I got my phone and texted her a simple “I love you. How’s classes?”

I am sure that my little guy Matt is not far behind the other two in rifling through my office for fun stuff to do to Mom. Of course with Matt the least of my worries will be paper clip chains. “I should remember to look before I sit down in my office chair if he’s been in here,” I remind myself.

I haven’t had a free-standing paper clip in my office for 12 years. I hope I don’t for the next 12 years.

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