Letters To Tom — Model Airplanes

Dear Tom,

Growing up in Memphis, I had a boyhood friend named Doug. Doug was the classroom clown and always was getting F’s in Conduct. He was also brilliant, but back then teachers didn’t understand that sometimes acting up in class was a sign of boredom, not just poor behavior. Doug was also very talented. He could draw anything and was gifted when it came to making things out of clay or more importantly model airplanes. I envied Doug’s artistic talents probably as much as he envied my skills with a baseball bat and ball.

I was a frustrated model plane kit assembler. I didn’t have the patience it required. I would open the box and ignore the instructions, just trying to get it assembled as fast as I could. Usually it resembled a plane that had encountered enemy fire more than the picture on the box it came in. Doug on the other hand carefully opened his box, checked that he had all the pieces, patiently painted every piece the appropriate color before assembly if required, and then methodically started following every instruction to the letter, even waiting for the glue to dry before going to the next step. His airplanes were works of art and lasted forever, my planes seldom made it into the weekend. I suspect those airplanes are behind some glass case even today. Mine are recycled plastic, many times over. Try as I might, I lacked the patience to do a good job, where Doug had learned the importance of patience and planning. Doug was teaching me a life lesson eventhough I was oblivious at the time.

I read recently that a painter before he paints must know how to prepare a canvas. Before the artist makes the first stroke he/she must cut, stretch, and attach the canvas. Then the canvas must be primed with multiple coats of primer. The primer must be sanded between each coat, and the dust cleared away. It is tedious and time consuming work. It is not creative and requires patience, but it is necessary for the artists creation.

Materpieces are not limited to works of Art. On July 4, 1776, our Founding Fathers began creating a canvas that is still a work in progress. The meaning of their words “all men,” “equal,” “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” continue to evolve to make their canvas more receptive to both the delicate and bold strokes, our Creator endowed.

Thoughts of my friend Doug, and my artist friends remind me that I have to be patient, and do the tedious preparatory work, before my canvas is ready. Each new adventure in my life is similar to painting a new primer coat, while each failure can be sanded away into dust of the past. The sanding merely makes my canvas smoother more receptive to more vibrant colors and images.

I know, Tom, this is probably a bad analogy, but you get my drift. I simply believe there is still at least one well-assembled aircraft in my future. I just have to remember to have patience and to be prepared.

Your friend, Webb

About the author

Webb Hubbell, former Associate Attorney General of The United States, is an author and speaker. His novels, When Men Betray, Ginger Snaps, A Game of Inches, The Eighteenth Green, and The East End are published by Beaufort Books and are available online or at your local bookstore. When Men Betray won one of the IndieFab awards for best novel in 2014. Ginger Snaps and The Eighteenth Green won the IPPY Awards Gold Medal for best suspense/thriller.

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