When Aaron was a very little guy, he had incredible imagination. Part of that probably came from the fact that he taught himself how to read at age 2, but he was always caught up in some very important role play, or finding a costume to wear for most of the day. At age 4, he was always setting up little cars or creating some kind of scenario. Of course, while he had imagination, he didn’t always have the best motor skills for fine, small work.
Enter Christmas 1990 or 1991. Prior to the day, of course, we made our way through the toy section at Target, where the most reasonable toys might be discovered. There, in the midst of the Lego display, Aaron found the thing you only dream of as a 4 year old: Forbidden Island. It was a Lego set of a pirate’s island, complete, of course with one-eyed pirates, plastic little rope ladders to make your pirate climb up to the top of the set, a little shark that was always present, and even a trap door that you could trip and drop your Lego person down into a prison cage. It was near perfect.
Christmas Day came, and sure enough, Forbidden Island was under the tree. Now, for any parents or grandparents out there, it’s probably important to go back over the fine motor skill ability of 4 year olds. The set came in the box of 185 pieces, and a small instruction booklet. By 8am Christmas morning, ol’ Dad was sitting at the card table with 189 pieces in front of him, starting the work of construction of Forbidden Island. Fortunately, Mrs. Cross kept a nice continuous supply of black coffee.
One of the things about Lego sets, if you aren’t familiar, is that there are no words in the instructions. What you get are diagrams, with each step highlighting the part or parts you need to attach to the set, and it’s up to you to be sharp-eyed enough to make sure you see all the parts needing to be worked on or built. It’s very possible, if you aren’t quite attentive enough, that after about five steps, you get to dissemble the parts you have put together, in order to include that one little part that is critical for, say, dropping the trap door. All the while that I worked on the major facility construction, Aaron spent time having the little shark eat the unsuspecting pirates. A true gentle Christmas morning experience. Not to be excluded, little brother Adam sat on the other end of the card table with his new set of Matchbox cars, watching them at eye level. Two of the cars were police and firefighter vehicles, that if you pushed down on top of them, they would squeal out little Matchbox sirens – over and over and over and.. For many reasons, it was good that I wasn’t asked to do brain surgery on Christmas morning…
With the final construction completed, placing the Jolly Roger plastic flag on its pole and attaching it to the top of the island, off Aaron went to explore the insides and outsides and dramatic story of Forbidden Island. It’s still in a box, 31 years later in our basement storage.
One important fact about the male mind is that we all go through different phases in life. One necessary part is that we males will tend to cycle from adulthood back to “second childhood” at some point. We begin to recall those great toys when we were young and our minds uncluttered by the stuff of maturity. Especially coming when retired, some of us manage to find all sorts of “neat” things to fill and fascinate us – most are pretty harmless, like finding and collecting stuff, or finally being able to indulge in areas we either didn’t have time or resources or even extra energy to explore. I own way more fossils now that I ever did as a boy. I have filled my office, as I described before, with all sorts of cool things – I can almost have the imagination of a 4-year-old, if I let myself go.
One area of the world that has always fascinated me has been, strangely enough, not of this world: Space. Although I was too young, and we lived in Australia, to go through the Mercury space program, I did watch with awe every time the Gemini program had a launch, and of course, Apollo and all its glory. Today on my shelf, I have some wonderfully complicated Lego models of the Saturn V rocket, the lunar lander, and the international space station. For my high school senior term paper, I wrote a detailed narrative of the development and advantages of the yet-to-be developed space shuttle. The idea of a reusable space vehicle that you could land of a runway was the stuff of science fiction, but wonderful to think about.
Back to second childhood: a week or two ago, among the various Father’s Day presents sitting on the living room coffee table, was a large--- very large package. I unwrapped it, and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a Lego Expert kit for building the Discovery Space Shuttle, and the Hubble space telescope (launched in space by Discovery in 1990). The actual Discovery, by the way, launched for the first time in 1984 – two years before Aaron was born. Of course, all the shuttles have been retired, but the concept and development was simply fantastic.
Now, when you get a kit like this one, you don’t just rush into start building. That would be like eating an entire Whitman’s Sampler at one sitting. No – such a thing is to be deliciously tasted and time taken so that it’s built just right. Also, where Forbidden Island had a whopping 185 pieces, Discovery has 2,354 pieces, including the small model of the Hubble.
Yesterday, I finally opened the box, not to build anything, but to pull out the instruction booklet, and see what was in store. I think Forbidden Island’s instructions were 12 pages long – daunting at that time. Discovery’s book has 314 pages in it. Yes, you read that right. However, for those of you who might have missed it before – I am retired. Outside of a few necessary things, I don’t have to do anything, really. Cheri has the week off, so I decided I would not start the construction of the shuttle until she goes back to work on Monday.
I decided to use as my assembly setting the kitchen table. The parts, fortunately, come in numbered bags that correspond with the picture instructions. At least that way, when I get to the end of the building step, I should have a better than even chance of having used all the pieces, hopefully so that I won’t have missed the trap door – or the solar panel connections. I don’t know how long it will take me – but it really doesn’t matter. It’s supposed to be fun, and a chance to focus my brain.
I hope to remain attentive to the task, and that it gives me the opportunity to be truly intentional on this project. Yes, I know it’s really just a big boy’s toy, but the process is really neat, and the end product should be also as neat. Did you know that model is 22” long and 14” wide, and actually allows for the bay doors to open and close. Like I said – neato. It begins next Monday.
I hope you have things that you look forward to in your life. I hope you have things that require your attention, focus and drive. Living attentively, as I have said all along, brings a sharpness to what we see and do, and it enlivens all the other things in our lives as a result. Blessings on you. By the way, I am looking ahead to someday also building the Lego model of the Colosseum. It has 9036 pieces…
Word for the day: nonsuch, or nonesuch. Pronounced simply NUN-sutch. It’s an English mash-up word, none + such, which was meant to portray something that is unmatched or certainly unequalled, either a person and his/her accomplishments or a thing itself. Nonsuch was a title given to a number of British naval vessels, or a class of ships. One “Nonsuch” was sold by the British navy, and was used in 1688 to be the first commercial ship to enter Hudson’s Bay in Canada. Out of that exploration was established the Hudson Bay Company, a major long-time trading and retailing company in Canada, which for that country was a true nonsuch enterprise.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.