Role Model

It would take a lot of glue to build a life sized replica of the planet, I thought to myself. Anyone with a wish to build a Revell polystyrene scale Earth kit had better stop at the glue aisle on the way out of the store. For some reason, this was what I was thinking as I looked at a hobby store website while watching a science program that kept blowing earth to bits over and over in a demonstration of how the moon was made.

My mom used to buy me different models to build. She was pretty good at picking things I’d be interested in; plastic glued models of any airplane with an accent on warplanes, cars –but only if the doors, hood and trunk were made to open and the wheels spun. I also did navy ships, destroyers, battleships, corsairs, tenders –even supply ships. I had a couple of tank models, but they weren’t a favorite of mine. The finish on my study desk showed the battle scars of dribbled glue, gouges from X-Acto knives, splotches of different colored paint, and there was a wheel from a B-24 permanently adhered to the desktop. Mom also got me the good glue: the stuff that actually melted the parts together, welding2 rather than glueing the parts together. My dad would always want me to use Duco cement and I hated it because it ran, it took 23 hours to dry, and I had to clamp parts to hold them together for the long wait and often the parts would misalign. I always knew that if mom bought the model, it would be something cool, if dad bought it, it would be a ship and I would have to send mom to the store for glue if I didn’t have any left from previous models. If I got it as a present from a friend or family member, it was a crapshoot.

I had a pretty good train setup as a kid. It wasn’t in the attic, it was the attic. My Lionel trains ran all over the place up there, I had 190 feet of track. I worked it all with four transformers. Of course, I had air bases with my models standing at the ready. I had towns with my cars posing stylishly on the boulevards (imagined). I had areas considered ocean where my fleet was always caught midstep in maneuvers. It was a wonderful place that took on a comforting quality –especially on rainy days as the roof was pummelled by thousands of kamikaze droplets and the growl of the ocean was an undulating audio backdrop.

I was fifteen when I built my last model. It wasn’t that I outgrew it or lost interest, other things inserted themselves in my time to fascinate and use the hours. It is now, in my retirement, that I’m reaching back and building things again. Some static models, but these days I want more than to position them on an attic floor, so I’m into remote control models. Airplanes, helicopters, boats, trucks, tanks and, of course, cars. The joke is on me though, because they mostly sit on the shelves in my room, crowding onto shelves and other horizontal surfaces. They are my muse, and much the same as I did back when, I sit and contemplate things, my thoughts spurred by the things my eyes might fall upon. It’s funny how some aspects never change, even over half a century of life. I still enjoy assembling things, whether designed by someone else as a retail product or my own design, cobbled from parts.

Models help distract me from pain, and fills the long minutes of the days my infirmity traps me and restricts my getting around. The morphine I take does a good job at dulling the pain I feel chronically, taking the edge off. But the pain never fully recedes, and keeping the mind occupied focuses it away from the ever present ache. In a way, this blog is a model that I continually build on, modelling life as I see and experience it. I suppose that additionally it’s therapeutic in ways, just as my more physical endeavors are. Somewhere someone said that everyone needs a hobby. I’m not about to argue because my hobbies have been good to me, a kinetic comfort food to warm me. It’s also exercise, flexing not only my limbs and digits, but flexing my mind and imagination.

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