Parenting Blog

The Story of the Invention Table

Gladiator Workbench Invention Table 2 TITLE IMAGE

A carnival ride for Playmobil people. That’s what woke us up on a recent Sunday morning.

I’m sorry, I should be more specific. I should paint this picture in fluorescent blues and yellows for you to see it better from where you sit right now, especially if you too have just been startled from your slumber in pre-dawn blackness. The idea for a carnival ride for Playmobil people is what my wife and I awoke to on that Sunday morning. The verbalized idea, from the brain of a little blonde monster, and, I’m totally spitballing here, some preliminary engineering plans sketched onto loose leaf paper with a pencil that most likely had 1) a crappy unsharpened tip (they all do) and 2) no eraser (they all don’t or is that ‘none do’? whatever, I trust you get the point — hah, an accidental pencil pun!). I don’t know for certain, it was 5:30 a.m. after all and I couldn’t see shit, but I heard papers rustling, an obnoxious office building sound filling the spaces she’d have left had she been using any punctuation when she talked. Loudly. Sure, it was adorbs but it was also 5:30 a.m. Not even a cat GIF is adorable at that time of day.

I’m no god, but I do fancy a Sunday rest, if not all day, than at the very least at 5:30 a.m. I do not wish for unreasonable things.

The Mouse, age 7.5, was giddier than any normal person should ever be at that hour. She’d spent the prior 20 minutes or 4 hours — I dunno, again, I was asleep, foolishly acting all sane — designing, drawing and writing out instructions to build some kind of elaborate traveling county fair-like swing-like ride out of cardboard and fabric and string and gum and paper clips and raisins and was MacGyver helping her with this??? She was going to build it later that day on her “Invention Table.”

That’s right, we have something called an Invention Table.

Gladiator Workbench Invention Table PBS PARENTS PROJECT

Here is Mouse working on a recent PBS Parent project for me, at a normal hour of day.

The story of our invention table didn’t begin at 5:30 a.m. on that Sunday though, it began, well, it began around that same time but on a different day, and, eventually, some 600 miles away in the middle of Michigan.

I was so graciously invited to the home of the men’s basketball coach of my favorite college. I just had to get there. Air travel was quickly ruled out. Train travel in this country is a joke. A bus was never going to happen. The people who ride on long distance buses frighten me. So we drove, all of us, for 20 hours rountrip so I could mingle for 3 hours and eat fancy hors d’oeuvres in the extremely made-over garage of a college coach in East Lansing, Michigan. Life is weird sometimes. There was a silent auction at this surreal event, a handful of packages up for grabs, stuff like a chair from one of the six Final Fours he’d coached in, an autographed basketball, signed pre-game warm-up clothes, and a Gladiator by Whirlpool workbench bundled with a John Hancock-ed something or other. 100% the proceeds from the auctions were going to Homes for Our Troops, an organization helping returning vets with their housing situations. Rad. Problem was, hardly any of the 35-40 people gathered in the middle of Michigan on that evening were bidding. They were eating, drinking, and talking, but no bid-bid. Heartless bastards, every last one of them. Apparently, these people want our returning soldiers, our heroes, to live on the street. I see no other explanation for the lack of silent auction action. I kid, mostly.

Now, I’m part generous, with money and with simply making the effort to place a bid / to be involved and help out in that way, and part ‘I’d really like coach’s signature on something’ so I put in for two of the packages, modest bids I was suuuuuuuuuure would be quickly eradicated by larger ones. I forgot about them. Didn’t even mention the bids or the auction once during the 10 hour ride home.

And then I got a call the following week that I, gulp, had won both auctions. And please send a check asap. And, “where shall we ship your workbench?” Double gulp. There might not be an able-bodied man alive less in need of a workbench than me. My dad didn’t teach me how to build or fix things, he taught me how to write checks to people who know how to build and fix things, and I didn’t need such an expensive or oversized surface for which to place my checkbook. And thus, the Invention Table was born. A massive, gorgeous surface for my daughters to create, build, deconstruct and, well, invent shit. Shit like a carnival ride for Playmobil people. At 5:30 a.m. and other points throughout the many days to come.

Gladiator Workbench Invention Table

No. She never built the damn thing. Poor Playmobil people.

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  1. I had a hard time reading past McGyver. I loved that show when I was a kid.
    Enjoy the new work bench! I hope it is the home to many great inventions.

  2. Thanks, Larry! Oh if you didn’t read to the last paragraph you missed my self-deprecating zinger! I hope it is used for many inventions too, not just another flat surface for crap to pile up upon. Too many of those around here!

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