Friday, July 24, 2009

Super Vision

Could you blame him? The title of the book is "Backyard Things That Are Fun To Build." Why then would my son be laying on the couch with a cushion over his head by the end of an afternoon attempting to recreate one of the "Backyard Things" illustrated? There were certainly more complex projects contained inside this volume. He didn't pick the floating submarine model with real periscope that you can stand up under. He didn't pick the Conestoga replica that you can build right on top of your old Radio Flyer wagon. He picked the camping tent.
How hard could it be? When you're twelve, and your formal construction training has been limited to helping dad hammer and nail on fences and the occasional clubhouse remodel, it can be quite intimidating. Add to this a very pronounced sense of "how things should be." The pictures in the book made it look so very simple. Take the scraps of lumber that you find around the back yard, and some bed sheets your mom lets you borrow. Add a little rope and before you know it, you've got a camp out tent just like the Boy Scouts use.
Or, in my son's case, you have a rickety assemblage that teeters and collapses when the dog runs into one of the posts. After a couple hours of organizing his own efforts with his two buddies, he had enough. It was not just like the pictures in the book. Nowhere in the book was a diagram of the family pet careening into a carefully balanced framework. This was not Backyard Fun.
I understood his pain. When I was a kid, I read "Three Boys and Space" and was consumed with the idea of erecting a model of the Saturn V in my back yard, in very much the same way the three boys in the book did. The illustrations made it all look so easy. Find an old radiator and a couple of wooden barrels for the lower stages, then a large tin cone for the capsule. It was so easy, even a child could do it. In a book. That particular book ruined a weekend way back when, and I knew what my son was feeling with his head buried under the upholstery.
Eventually, I talked him out from under that cushion, and back into the yard where his friends had put the tent back up, with some extra bracing in case of dog. He crawled inside and pulled an extra blanket up to his chin, where he commenced to taking a five-minute nap. When he opened up his eyes again, he was refreshed and ready to head back out into the world with a new, more elemental vision: fire pit. Now that sounds like a Backyard Thing that would be fun to build.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How come that stupid book doesn't have anything like "Build a Supersonic Fighter Jet Plane from Outer Space" or "Build a 3-Foot Bionicle Loaded with 10 Assorted Blades and Throwing Weapons,"--you know, something that makes even a little bit of sense?!?