I was only 8 years old when I made my first model.
It was a project at school, and we were allowed to make anything we wanted. Some people wanted to make jewelery out of plastic clay, others wanted to make cards and draw pictures. I saw the sheets and sticks of balsa wood and knew I wanted to make a boat.
There was no actual plan, but I did know what my boat would look like. It would be sleek, and fast - a jet boat - and it would be red.
My father was a diver and he liked to fish. Sometimes when he came home with his friends and their catch, they'd unload the boat from the trailer, and tip all the fish out onto the lawn. I suppose sitting inside the small dinghy marooned on a sea of grass, watching my dad sort the small sharks from the schnapper, I began to understand how boats might be built.
I carefully curved the long slender balsa sticks as far as I dared. I mitered the ends, and using PVA glue and pins I pieced the bones of my speed boat together. The struts gave strength and would provide support for the boat's skin.
Using papier-mâché, I covered the boat. I smoothed the soggy wall-paper-pasted newspaper over the bow, over the edges and down the sides. It dried crisp across the skeleton of the boat. I painted it red. I gave it a second coat more for the fact I loved painting it than thinking it needed it.
Balsa wood helped me see how I could make things all by myself. I would never have been able to make such a sophisticated project had it not been for that child-friendly material. It let my imagination become real. No adults were required!
Carrying my completed boat home I was so proud of myself. I gave it to my dad for his Christmas present that year. Poor bugger - getting a wonky, plan-less, pale red boat made of newspaper and sticks by an 8 year old girl instead of a box of chocolates or a pair of socks. He was a good dad though, and he was extremely appreciative of my hard work.
I've had a deep fondness for balsa wood my entire life. I must've related this fact (amongst all the other meaningless prattle I fill empty space up with) to Chaz one day because yesterday - on his 27th birthday - he gave me my very own, brand new, pristine sheet of balsa wood.
...and people say I'm hard to buy for!
Thank you Chaz, for hundreds of things, but most especially for always, always listening to me. For managing to pick amongst all my chattering to find the simple, and very thoughtful idea of balsa wood - which brought with it lovely memories for me of my dad.