Sixty-five years ago or thereabouts, my father, a career naval officer, gave me a model of Sir Francis Drake's flagship, the Golden Hind, just prior to leaving for the Korean War. The full color picture on the box lured me with the promise of manning the helm as Drake urged the ship onward in his quest to circumnavigate the globe. So taken was I by the packaging that the words, "some assembly required," went unnoticed as I quickly cast off my mental bow lines in pursuit of adventure upon the high seas of my imagination.
Emptying the contents upon my little desk, I saw before me: many little white plastic pieces, directions written in little print, and a little tube of clear cement . . . I was going to have to earn my jaunt on the foaming brine with my own little hands! But where to begin? My father's oft said words came to mind: "If you have to use a road map, you shouldn't be driving." Thus, my first step was to set the directions aside; my second was to dive in, navigating by the seat of my pants. In time, I found a spot for most of the pieces; but in truth, my finished product looked like a ship that had had a hard time of it in a blizzard of glue.
When Dad shipped out, my mother gave me two gifts: a model of Christopher Columbus' Santa Maria and a few words of wisdom: "Until you learn to drive, road maps can be helpful." With that insight, my prowess in handling "some assembly required" improved dramatically; and many pre-driving hours assembling ships and planes ensued.
At fifteen Mom's words became a faint whisper while Dad's thundered into my decision making on the road and off . . . as captain of my own ship, I needed no one else's charts to guide me! Though older, I was no wiser; like the child of years earlier, I was again "in pursuit of adventure upon the high seas of my imagination" . . . but didn't realize it! Alas, foundering on life's rocky shoals a time or two renewed my appreciation for Mom's more measured approach to decision making. That said, I am my father's child!
Take for example the incident of the two two-shelf bookcases recently delivered via UPS to the Rectory, each stamped boldly with the words "some assembly required." Normally, upon seeing that phrase, I would have waited for my daughter and her children to put them together; but being Sunday evening, I figured the Lord would be with me . . . so with fond memories of my modeling years, I opened the first box.
In a "senior moment," I attacked the contents with "Golden Hind" enthusiasm; and in a move that would have warmed my father's heart, I threw caution to the wind. The highly photo-shopped picture of the assembled bookcase invited such rashness, challenging my manhood!
With cocky abandon, I set aside the twenty-page instruction booklet (printed in three languages) and laid out the eleven pieces . . . only eleven pieces - how tough could it possibly be? Picture in hand, I discounted the warning printed beneath it: "not all parts are labeled." Similarly, I failed to recognize the inclusion of the number for a twenty-four hour assistance hotline as a clue that stormy seas could be ahead.
Two hours later, I had miraculously managed to assemble the bookcase using all but a few of the seventy-two bits of hardware provided. However, any a sense of accomplishment I might have anticipated had been sapped by the pain in my knees from crawling around on the floor, the blood dripping from the nail hole in my left thumb, and the sweat pouring from my brow!
While contemplating the still-boxed second bookcase before me, a Mom-inspired moment of clarity prevailed - I remembered the Santa Maria and her quiet wisdom about road maps. Thirty minutes later both bookcases were standing side-by-side, much to Becky's delight . . . and mine!
Last night, I again pondered my Sabbath triumph. While to most the cases will appear to be identical, I can tell "Dad's" from "Mom's;" and curiously, the former gives me greater satisfaction. Some may say my feelings are rooted in the old saying, "no pain, no gain!" Others will attribute my preference to a latent cave man instinct. Me? I think it simply goes back to the eighth grade and the only "C" I ever made in school - it was a semester course in woodworking. My lap tray for Mom earned a "B" . . . my bookcase for Dad received a charity "D." I have finally redeemed myself!