Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The sinking of the USS Constitution

When I was a child a story I heard over and over again involved one of our country's most historical of vessels coming to a horrible end.  Often this story, or reference to the story, would be brought up by my father against my mother during arguments.  I'll back up...

You see, when I was very very young (actually, I may not have even been born yet) my father had at least one manly hobby that he doesn't practice today.  Specifically, he built model ships.  Or, at least I imagine he did.  It is difficult to say as I cannot remember events before my conception.  Then again, considering the number of model ships displayed about the house in my youth (that number being zero), some would conjecture that there was only ever one ship.  To the best of my deductive reasoning I can say with some certainty that there was a model ship, that model was of the USS Constitution, and that model was never finished.  To hear my father tell of it, he worked diligently piecing together that grand vessel.  A labor of love, he devoted hours, days, weeks!  Months!  YEARS of his time to bring that model to a fully assembled glory!  To hear my mother tell of it, there was a box with some plastic parts in the basement that she never saw him do anything with, and after several years of inactivity she cleaned the basement and threw it out. . .

As you can imagine, this was seen as a breach of trust and a violation of personal property.  I literally could not begin to guess how many times the USS Constitution, "My Model Ship!" was brought up as verbal cannon fodder in various arguments.  Eventually, the mention of the model ship became a joke unto itself and was brought up when the argument was as humorous as it was likely to be and still considered an argument.  The ship was lost, never to be recovered, and never again would my father devote time to that grand vessel.

Until I became a man of professional employ.  When I am able, I always like to get my Dad something spiffy for Christmas.  Doesn't have to be spectacular, but I at least try to put thought into it when I can.  You can only give so many Bass Pro-Shops gift cards before the concept is stale. One holiday season was particularly successful.  I had asked my father at Thanksgiving what he wanted for Christmas.  To this he replied with a smile, "A good smoke and a piece of ass!"  I still remember him opening the box on Christmas to find a few nice cigars and a plush Eeyore toy.  The joy that spread across his face as he put two and two together still makes me smile.  Eeyore is still Velcro-taped to the dash of his pick-up truck.

The next year, I recalled the USS Constitution and thought to myself.  "Wouldn't it be grand if I could find another of that model and give it to him for Christmas?"  I thought he would be thrilled at the prospect of tackling that project all over again.  For my part, the search took months.  I did hours upon hours of research online, found old modelling forums, and eventually located one on Ebay.  The model was in perfect condition, from the year before I was born and matching my father's description perfectly.  For a reasonable sum I bid and won that model kit, checked all the parts on arrival for completeness and carefully wrapped the box months before the chosen holiday.

Fast forward to Christmas morning, we were all seated around the living room opening gifts.  I passed my father a rather large, but light, flat box.  He eagerly opened it and for several minutes his face was bound in confusion.  At last he asked me what this was.

"It's your model, the USS Constitution!" I said
"Uh, what model?" he replied
"The one Mom threw away so many years ago!" I exclaimed, "It's a copy of the one you described, I thought you would like to try again."
". . . "

"This isn't my model."
Fuck, at least I also gave him the gift card.