The Living Room Rocket - 12.25.00

Back when I was about 8-12 or so, I was obsessed with the Star Wars movies just like about every other boy my age. I wasn't on the high-end of obsession where I knew the name and mythology and names of all the characters, but I had my fair share of the toys and games and even bedsheets and many many hours were spent devising situations in imaginary worlds with little plastic figurines. Lots of people would probably argue that it wasn't healthy, but I kept a good bearing on what was real and what wasn't, and I think it helped to make me a more creative kid in general.

It was somewhere around my 10th birthday or so on Christmas that my list was pretty much packed with toys that were all Star Wars related. I'd gone through catalogs and advertisements and circled tons of things, knowing that I'd only get about half of them if I were lucky. Still, I had my goals.

It was on that year that I got what was probably one of my best presents ever, and it didn't have to do with Star Wars one bit. Not only that, but it was also probably the more inexpensive toy that I received that year and probably inspired the most amount of thought and creativity on my part. Not only that, but it became something else entirely special to me after a period of time, mainly because I'd put so much of myself into in.

After opening my regular batch of presents on Christmas Eve and already getting excited about the new figures added to my collection, my parents told me that there was one more gift and that it was big. I was confused at first, mainly because I thought that I'd already opened everything already, and partially because I couldn't figure out how something could possibly be bigger. My parents usually spent a certain amount and even though I was only about 10 years old, I knew pretty much when that limit had been reached.

Still, there was one more 'big' present and I was excited again. It was like icing on the cake that was Christmas that year and I peered around wondering where it was. They got up from the couch, then pulled it out from the wall and pulled out a large pile of colored cardboard. It looked like an appliance box of some sort, but it wasn't because I could tell that there were lines printed for cutting and a pattern of green, orange, yellow, and white printed on the side. Looking at the patterns and edges, I still couldn't figure it out, but when we layed it all down on the floor and spread it out, it started to make sense.

It was a cardboard rocket ship, and although I know I was a little bit disappointed by the 'big' present, I was engrossed in wanting to put it together. We punched out all the parts and folded on the dotted lines and with a little help from some packing tape, we had the whole thing together in just about an hour. It stood about 5 feet tall and had a door on opposing sides. It was the shape of a hexagon and sort of came to a soft point at the very top. Not only that, but there were 'portal' windows on it about 3.5 feet up from the bottom that you could look out of (or in to).

Once we had it sitting up and put together, part of my excitement on it was lost and after crawling through it a couple times, I went back out and started playing with my action figures. The rocket was fun, but I already had adventures for my figures planned out and I didn't want to keep them waiting.

It was sometime in the next two weeks, though, that a weird transformation happened. At first, I started playing with my action figures within the cardboard rocket and creating scenarios for them within the blank brown interior. After awhile, though, I started sitting in the rocket myself, pretending that I was indeed inside a rocket and launching off. I'd push it over by the window at night and look out the window portals on the ship up at the sky and pretend that I was floating in space. After awhile, I even went so far as to wanting to curl up and sleep in it and would drag pillows and blankets from my bed inside and nap there.

It was also around this time that I started decorating the interior walls of the rocketship. Although the outside of it was printed with bright colors (that admittingly weren't too great for a rocket, but suited me fine anyway), the inside of it was just blank cardboard and after a couple days of imagining that I was pushing buttons, I got fed up. I dragged my big box of crayons inside the rocket and started drawing an instrument panel with all kinds of red and blue buttons, dials, and black screens with primitive green screens that looked like an old Apple 2E display.

It went on like that for awhile and if I came up with some new rocket function that I didn't have a control for, I'd just draw it in. Eventually, I had a couple foot by couple foot panel of instrument panel that suited me pretty well for nearly any function I needed.

After awhile, though, even that wasn't enough and although it was kind of strange for me at first, I just started drawing pretty much anything that came to mind. It was hard for me to go outside the conventions of what I expected to be on the insides of a rocketship, but I got past it and drew everything from animals to other rocketships. I filled almost one complete panel of the hexagon and after starting on another it became sort of an unwritten goal that I would try to cover nearly all of the inside of the rocket with drawings.

I spent hours and hours inside the rocket drawing on the walls and coming up with new ideas. It became sort of a low-fi mural in the round and by the time that I was nearly finishing the inside, the rocket was starting to feel the effects of having a 10 year old kid running in and out of it. The top point was sagging a bit and the sides were much more wobbly, and even with new tape supports every couple days I could tell that it wasn't going to last much longer.

Finally, the day came where the rocket wouldn't stand up by itself. It was sitting in a corner propped up by the walls and a gob of tape and one entrance was completely blocked. I'd gone through a huge batch of crayons filling the inside and just before we tossed it, I climbed inside and laid down on my back with my feet sticking out the door. I looked up and around at the drawings and smiled at what I had created. I knew it was time to throw it out, so I then went outside and pulled it from the wall and jumped against it, knocking it to the floor. I walked up and down on it until it was nearly as flat as when my parents had pulled it out from behind the couch, then hauled it outside to the garbage.

I missed it, but my drawing moved on to other places. My parents bought me a drawing tablet and some colored pencils and I started up drawing even more seriously. I missed the rocket, but those blank walls that had been inside it planted a seed of creativity in my head and I had to keep on going with it.

When I think back to the rocketship, I wish that I still had it for nothing else than seeing the drawings on the inside of it. Although many of my drawing tablets from younger days have survived, that was one of my first big art projects and I think it would be fun to see what I'd come up with. I also get a bit of a smile knowing just how much fun and how much my imagination had been jumpstarted with nothing more than cardboard, but that's how it goes sometimes.