As a kid growing up in the 60s, I was an avid plastic model kit builder. I honestly don’t remember what the first one was that I built, but I have memories of a maroon car from the 30s or 40s that had a rumble seat. I thought that seat was so cool. As I grew up I went through several phases of kit building as my main focus of interest changed: cars, monsters from classic movies, dinosaur skeletons, anatomical models, and lastly, spacecraft and airplanes. In fact, I associate the smell of plastic model cement with Christmas as much as the smell of turkey, dressing, and fresh-baked cookies.
I have two especially great model memories. The first was on my 9th birthday. My dad was late getting home from work that day. Knowing how time passes for a child, he probably wasn’t more than half hour or so, but it seemed like an eternity. And the reason? He had gone to several hobby stores trying to find a particular model kit I wanted. I was deep in the throes of my “I want to be a doctor” phase, and while he was able to find Renwal’s Visible Man, the Visible Woman kit was nowhere to be found. So instead, he bought me the Visible Dog, which was equally cool. (I acquired the Visible Woman while visiting relatives in Green Bay about a year later.) The second memory was the Christmas that I received the 4′ tall kit of the Saturn V moon rocket. I know I’d been clamoring for this model for weeks—if not months—and at $30, it was extremely expensive for the time, but my parents being who they were, came through.
At the time, model kits were available of just about anything the United States had put into the air or into space, and I swear I must’ve had just about every one of them at one time or another. The summer after I got the Saturn V, I was deep into commercial airliners. My first was a Boeing 727, followed up by a 737, a 707, and one of the then brand-new 747. I remember how excited I was to see one in person the following summer as we flew to Massachusetts to visit the grandparents. I bought the 747 (Pam Am livery!) kit when we were back east, and resented the fact that Mom wouldn’t let me build it because there would be no way of getting it home if it were assembled. Ah, the frustration! But surprisingly, my favorite kit of all the airliners was the 737 (United livery). I don’t know why; there was just something about its short, bulldog-like lines that I adored.
To this day I yearn to own one of the professional models of both the 737 and 747, but can’t ever seem to justify the expense, much less purchasing one of those old kits today.
Anyway, last night I dreamt that Ben and I were at a toy or hobby store of some kind in Denver. The selection of kits was nothing short of amazing (the store elicited the kind of wonder I felt whenever walking into the shop I frequented when I was a kid). There were rows and rows of shelves stacked to over our heads with just about every kit you could think of. I remember there were even kits available of the Apollo Lunar Module as it evolved in design.
I found a couple kits that I liked, but put them back because I don’t build models any more. The last time I did was in 1999 or thereabouts, when I wrangled an original 1969 model kit of the Apollo spacecraft off eBay for cheap. Can’t tell you how many times I nearly gave up on it; to this day I don’t understand how kids have the patience to put one of these things together, much less properly paint them. About five years prior to that I built a Visible Woman kit to give to a friend of mine who was an elementary school teacher in San Francisco; an exercise that sent me to the ER with an X-acto blade lanced thumb.
Anyhow, in the dream, as we were getting ready to leave the store, I wanted to go back to see if they had the 737 model, because that was one kit I wanted. And then it ended.
As I lay there in that sort of half-asleep, half-awake state, the meaning of this dream was very clear: it had been about my job search. Those kits represented all the opportunities available to me, yet I felt most comfortable going back to something I was familiar with. This tells me that while that may be the easiest route, maybe it’s time to branch out a little and build something new…