March 13, 2007


When my parents were here last, they brought over a model I'd put together with my dad when I was, like, ten. It was made of Legos, some rugged 4x4 van thing with all kinds of cool doors and big tires. I showed it to Mia on Friday night. She was fascinated. Obsessed, actually. Especially after she saw the steering wheel. A fan of anything she can potentially drive, she begged to step inside and steer. The problem was obvious. Mia is a couple feet tall. The model, around four inches. She never quite understood the issue. Instead she grew frustrated and sad. Tears streaming down her face, I eventually returned the model to the bag in which it came. It must be frustrating to be a toddler.

When I was a kid, my dad and I built models. Models airplanes, mainly, but we sprinkled in a few cars here and there for good measure. I remember building a ship as well but that wasn't nearly as much fun as the planes and the cars.

The models came - and still do, I'd imagine - in boxes, pieces arranged in some bizarre fashion clinging to plastic frames, labeled with tiny numbered tabs. We'd unpack the box, lay the pieces out and find the directions. We'd take the top off the glue, a clear, smelly substance that came out of a thick foil-like tube. We'd survey the pieces in front of us, flatten the directions and find the proper starting place.

Some of the models were complete in a couple of hours - a football game on in the background, peanuts in the shell in a pile on the table. Some of them took a few weekends to finish. They'd sit, untouched, on newspapers until we both had time to work on them together.

Finishing them was always sort of a drag. The little nubs of plastic, left over from tearing them off the plastic frame they arrived on, had to be filed down. Decals had to be doused in water and carefully placed. Paint - if you were truly dedicated - had to be applied. And I was never one for the detail work. After all, it was built. I could see it, hold it, imagine myself in the cockpit.

In retrospect, maybe I didn't like doing all that stuff because I didn't really want them to represent what they were intended to represent - small versions of F-14s and Soviet migs. Maybe, instead, I wanted them to remain forever flawed, forever incomplete so that anyone who looked upon them would recognize them for what they were - reminders of time spent with my father.

Posted by Chris at March 13, 2007 7:15 AM

I used to absolutely LOVE making models. For about 25 minutes. Then they'd sit around making me feel guilty until they...well, actually I have no idea what happened to them. Maybe my parents tossed them. Or maybe they just faded away due to neglect. Hmmm...curious.

Posted by: Buzz at March 13, 2007 7:51 AM

What a lovely post.

My dad and I built fences. No kidding--farm family. Hours upon hours building, re-building, repairing. I was sad last year when he paid someone to remove all the old fencelines, not so much because the fences were gone but because they represented so much time. I totally see what you're saying.

Posted by: Alissa at March 13, 2007 7:53 AM

I think no matter what the venue, anytime a parent does anything with their child, it is time well spent. Building models or fences is really building relationships.

Posted by: Maribeth at March 13, 2007 8:08 AM

what a sweet post. i too used to build models with my dad. thanks for bringing back those memories.

Posted by: steph at March 13, 2007 8:22 AM

I love building models. Many menories of doing that with my Dad too. We also used to build model dinosaurs and all sorts of other stuff as well as the WWII bombers. Fantastic stuff. I then used to read up on the history of the thing we had built which is I guess is one of the things that really grew my love of history.

Posted by: E :) at March 13, 2007 8:24 AM

when I was a kid I could never sit still long enough to put a model together. There was a Ford V8 engine model that my dad wanted to put together, and for the last two or three years I've been wishing we had. I've found it online, and when my son gets older, I'l have my dad come up and the three of us and do it together...

Posted by: jason at March 13, 2007 8:40 AM

That's lovely that your dad still has all that stuff.

Posted by: Fraulein N at March 13, 2007 8:49 AM

I love that Mia didn't understand why she couldn't get in the car. That's what's great about kids.

Posted by: Liz at March 13, 2007 9:37 AM

Poor Mia. That's how I feel when I look at some of the jeans in my closet.

It's wonderful when parents and kids do things together. I'm teaching one to cook and even though I want to run screaming sometimes, it's still fun and I hope it's something she'll remember.

Posted by: ann adams at March 13, 2007 9:53 AM

awww man, now you had to go and get me all misty eyed and stuff.

Posted by: JayMonster at March 13, 2007 10:15 AM

LOL @ Ann's jeans comment! Amen!

Isn't it great to have those memories of spending that quality time with your father? My dad was 38 when I was born, and there was a houseful of other kids too. (I was the baby, and the 2nd 'unintended' child -- vasectomy ensued) My older brothers would build those models and proudly display them on their bedroom shelves.

My "dad" memories were simple things like him occasionally picking me up from elementary school on random Thursdays, when he got off work early. That was always a super surprise. Otherwise, I made the long walk home. Or he and I would sit at the kitchen table, eating raw oysters with ketchup and horseradish sauce on Saltine crackers. We shared that obsession and still do. Or buying a fresh coconut, cracking it, drinking the coconut milk, and grinding the fresh coconut with a hand crank grinder. Mmmmm... Or the silly song he'd sing to me when I didn't want to go to sleep. It was his own version of "All the Pretty Little Horses", only more upbeat and goofy...

"Go to sleepy little baby
When you wake
You can have some cake
With all the little horsies"

That always made me laugh, and feel good, secure and right with the world of toddlerism. Yes, good "dad" memories rock.

Posted by: coolchick at March 13, 2007 10:28 AM

In the 1960s Universal Studios released the rights to images of classic horror movie characters. Frankenstein, the Wolfman, the Mummy, etc all became the rage at hobby stores everywhere. Each model was about 10-11 inches high and very detailed.

All of my cousins on my mom's side of the family were older than me and when I went to visit that particular aunt, she had left their rooms with all of their junk. Park of what was left behind were those horrific models gathering dust on the shelves and dresser of the youngest cousin. Sure, there were the usual planes and cars, but most of what riveted me were those monsters and in the shadows of that bedroom, which still held the remnants of his recently abandoned childhood, they sent a shiver up my spine. I wonder whatever happened to them.

Posted by: wordgirl at March 13, 2007 10:38 AM

Very sweet. :)

My dad bought me a model of a ship once when I was about 12. We started it, but never did finish it. I think one of my brothers ended up putting it years later.

Posted by: Zandria at March 13, 2007 11:06 AM fair..making me want my Daddy when I am at work and he's at work.

I am the put it together Queen with my boys, from Legos, to tinker toys, to those wild Bionicles, I can sit for hours with them. And oh my, have you checked out those Erector sets lately???

Posted by: Steff at March 13, 2007 11:51 AM

Dude, at the risk of sounding gay, that was beautiful. I kinda felt that's where you were going in a very well written way. You made remember the few projects and park sports with my father. Thank you.

Posted by: tesco at March 13, 2007 1:11 PM

my father is huge into building model cars...he's even got a whole workshop...but never let me help him. as a kid, i was dying to just be a part of it. it's nice that you and your dad got to do that together. great post, Chris!

Posted by: ali at March 13, 2007 3:11 PM

This made me, "Awww."

I think of my grandfather every time I see a domino. We used to play for hours when I was ity-bitty; and I don't recall ever acually understanding how to play... the man must have had infinite patience with me.

Do you still have all of the models you two built together? That would be awesome.

Thanks for the Tuesday afternoon warm fuzzies. =)

Posted by: smoness at March 13, 2007 3:26 PM

Wow, this is a really nice post. And it must have been a generational thing because I too used to do models with my father. Exactly as you described it, amazing. I used to get all excited to go the store so I could pick out a new box, whether it be a plane or car.

Thanks for the trip back to my youth!

Posted by: Dave Evanns at March 13, 2007 4:34 PM

what a lovely post :)
I so remember that glue in the tube! my brother used to sniff it all the time. it did smell. but he loved it. I guess we should have realized he had a problem back then cause he had a lot of glue and no actual complete models......hmmmmm

Posted by: MadMom at March 13, 2007 5:01 PM

The most fond memories I have with my Dad (also known as he who shall not be named) are when we built planes and boats out of wood left over from the fences he built. Of course they were all too heavy to fly or float. But what do you expect from a functional alcoholic? I was glad for the time spent. Good times.

Posted by: Tink at March 13, 2007 5:11 PM

This post makes me feel warm fuzzies:)

What is it about today? I spent a chunk of my time thinking about my childhood after realizing "I AM grown up." Which might be obvious, but it was surprising anyway.

Posted by: Heather at March 13, 2007 5:32 PM

Aww, great post! For me and my dad, it's fishing. My dad is very much an outdoorsman, and while my brother and he have many more outdoorsy things that are theirs and I have absolutely no interest in, Dad always makes it a point for us to go fishing together if the weather is nice when I'm visiting because he knows that I like to fish. It doesn't seem like he gets to the pond unless I'm there, so it makes it that much more special.

Posted by: Beth in StL at March 13, 2007 8:06 PM

How sweet. I remember when I was really little, I got a doll house for Christmas that my dad was going to help me assemble. I had such visions of little painted shingles and shutters and everything. Then he realized how complicated the kit was and we had to take it back. Definitely not quite as sweet now, is it?

Posted by: angela at March 13, 2007 9:17 PM

That's a beautiful thing to do with your Dad. I would try to build small models of houses and whole towns with my bro, only to find he was a million times better :)

Posted by: Dee at March 13, 2007 11:11 PM

I didn't make many models with my dad, but to this day, I'm physically unable to decorate a Christmas tree without Herb Alpert's Christmas album playing. It's hokey, but it makes me all sentimental.

He had all the Herb Alpert albums. Yum.

Posted by: Daddy Democrat at March 14, 2007 1:05 AM

I had some kids with that interest... I always was intrigued by how the thing got made and there were usually pieces left over. What's with that? I couldn't figure out where they would have gone... Maybe that's why my youngest is such a good fabricator now and builds and races stock cars? All those years of practice on the models...

Nice post.

Posted by: sue at March 14, 2007 12:47 PM

This is such a nice post, Chris. Love it. My dad loves his puzzles. I do them with him sometimes. Now we do crossword puzzles -- and they are never left unfinished. :)

Posted by: Haley-O at March 15, 2007 12:34 AM

Some time before, I really needed to buy a house for my firm but I did not earn enough money and couldn't buy something. Thank goodness my father proposed to try to get the home loans at reliable bank. So, I did that and was happy with my small business loan.

Posted by: ROMERO35KERRY at June 19, 2010 6:23 AM