L’enfant Terrible

Very early on in my younger years, I had to come up with schemes and devious plans to “earn” money to fill my plastic addiction. My mother, on Saturday mornings, always brought me a $.75 model when she came back from the farmers market. It was usually a bagged Airfix or Frog kit.

When my dad pulled up the car in our driveway, after picking mother and my sister up from their grocery run, I already found myself at the front door. Not to greet my mom or show her any anticipation I felt for her return. No, it was only for the sole purpose to wrestle the shopping bag out of her hands so I could see what she’d got me!

Believe it or not, my mother carried a list of models in her purse, which I had written on the backside of a piece of wrapping paper. After inspecting the contents of the bag and retrieving the coveted price, I removed the list from her handbag and adjusted the inventory!

Sadly, this weekly ritual was not enough to satisfy my obsession. These small kits were built and painted by Sunday afternoon. I needed more. Something substantial. Something that would really keep me entertained. A challenge maybe! Alas, my hobby expense was the smallest portion of my parent’s weekly household budget, next to 5 rolls of toilet paper!

Waiting for my birthday or Christmas took too long. It required financial trickeries to feed my habit like scamming my 15-year older brother out of some of his allowance or blackmail my sister and test how much hush-money I could swindle for keeping my mouth shut. She was secretly seeing some boy from a family with “low standards”.

I knew both of them despised me for it but what did I care!? I was the nestling of the Verswyvel dynasty and therefore in a safe arrangement.

So, three, seven, ten-dollar kits were not out of the ordinary. Lots of money back then. And when my parents questioned me about it, I shrugged my shoulders and told them that my brother and sister really must love me!

A few years went by and my sister got married to someone of the “better class” and for a honeymoon they’d chose to go the beach. Honeymoon travel in Belgium back in the day, consisted in getting in the car and drive 60 miles! On top of that, my parents decided I should make the drive with the newlyweds and the plan was established to leave me with the married couple for the duration.

Out of religious conviction, somehow, my parents (read; father) thought it to be a good idea to entrust my sister with my presence.  Then there would be at least some plausible impediment that should interrupt some of the relentless flow of hanky-panky that normally takes place during honeymoons!…Yeah right!

For me however, it was like manna from heaven! After Mom and Dad left, the styrene floodgates opened up in biblical proportions! Within a day, I was showered with “gifts”. I never built so many Tamiya armor kits in such a short period of time! During that week, a continuous stream of PanzerKampfWagens landed on the beach-apartment table and I glued the hell out of them! While in the bedroom, behind me and with the door shut, another form of entertainment was in session. At least, that’s what I in all my innocence, could make up from the high-pitched giggling noises that filtered through the drywall!

Now in hindsight, I can’t fathom why I was such a little unpleasant child to my siblings back then. They both must have known that I was playing them but let me get away with it to keep the peace.

I will always be grateful for my younger years and the fortune of growing up within a family that was loving and not only nourished the contents of my stomach but also stimulated my model compulsion in such a way that everybody was in on it!

Cheers!

Jef V

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