Adel Gabot

My daughter Ea just gifted me with a 1/72 scale F-16 scale model kit last week. Complete with kit glue and assorted paints.

I don’t really know why she gave me that kit. She probably picked up on past conversations that had me talking about assembling model kits when I was a teenager. She was probably trying to think of a birthday gift, and she came up with that. Good, actually, but I’m not sure I have the patience to complete a kit these days. Or the concentration. I’m still in a funk most of the time, and can barely get by. But I’m grateful that she took time to look for a kit for me, and for trying to think of a way to get me to relive my past, in however a small way.

I remember making these kits as a teen in college: another, more complicated F16, that large F4 Phantom, that attack helicopter whose designation eludes me at the moment, the space shuttle Enterprise (complete with a 747), that Star Trek Enterprise ship with the little lights, that big German tank, that X-Wing Fighter that I loved to pieces or all those many little kits I can’t even remember doing (they’re coming back to me now – the LA Dart car, that Charlie’s Angels van…so many).

I really wasn’t very good at making them, and was always in a hurry to finish, barely leaving time for the paint or the cement to dry before moving on with the next part. It was more of a quick race to complete the kit, hopefully as much as possible within a day, when in truth it should have taken weeks to complete each kit properly.

I remember buying the Tamiya catalogue and staring at the pages for hours, dreaming of that next kit. I bought with my meager allowance all the different colors of paints I could get my hands on (nowhere near enough, unfortunately; the stores around here never had a complete set). I bought different sized brushes, tubes and bottles of glue (which for some reason always dried up on me and I ended up buying more), x-acto blades and different tools: vises, tweezers and all that stuff. I got a couple of airbrush kits, using spare tires to run them, and later on, a motor. I even thought of making a complete little workshop, which I worked towards, but I never quite got there.

I think it was the planning and precise, exacting steps that got a model built that appealed to me more than the model itself. I liked that you followed specific instructions in a precise order, and there was nothing left to chance. There was always a place for each part. You build, for instance, an engine in stages: you assemble this section first, then you set it aside while you build another section, which connects to the first section, and so forth, until you had the whole engine. Which you situate inside the hood which you previously built. And so it went. It was marvelous.

Painting the thing was an afterthought; I just got impatient waiting for the paint to dry and hurried it along. Paint got mixed with other colors because I couldn’t wait for one layer to dry before putting on the next one. Sometimes I wasn’t sure things got glued on properly because the paint on the part I was gluing on wasn’t completely cured. But I loved following the instructions. Yes, I think that’s what I loved.

So thanks, Ea, for that 1/72 F16 kit. I’m going to follow those instructions to the letter, and I’m going to paint and glue all the parts together. With patience and care this time. I’m going to start building it this week.


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