The Lego Tangent

It happened this afternoon

It all started early this afternoon when I was wandering around my apartment looking at things and trying to visualize utilizing more space by moving things around. Do you ever do that? My mind is actually tired from all the visualization. I’ve moved everything in my tiny apartment around so many times in my noggin that I’m almost dizzy. The only way it’s going to work is if I get rid of shit.

In over six years in this apartment I’ve learned that apartments don’t grow and expand. If you need a bigger apartment you’ve got to move to one. But who wants to move in winter time, right? Not me. Besides, in my supremely blissful state of unemployment I don’t have the time or resources to move right now. I’m too busy NOT looking for work.

So earlier this afternoon I was standing in my bedroom looking around to see how I could magically add a bookshelf unit to the room. I only found four inches of unused space. (That is with the door open.)

It really isn’t as bad as it sounds. You see, my teeny tiny bedroom is also my teeny tiny office. It is actually two rooms in one teeny tiny one. While the office half of the room sees a hell of a lot more action than the bedroom half of the room, what really takes up so much space are all the freaking houseplants!

There are twenty-five of them! I could probably get rid of all the houseplants and have enough space in that room to open a small diner.

But houseplants are a totally different tangent. What I wanted to talk about is Legos. You know, those plastic toy thingies.

There I was earlier this afternoon standing in my office/bedroom/arboretum and I looked in the corner by my chic expensive laundry hamper. Next to the hamper is a 24 inch by 15 inch by 14 inches deep plastic tub container. Atop this tub container is a wooden tray on which sits a potted ficus tree and a small bowl of rocks (explanation forthcoming).

Inside that large tub container there are, I’m guessing, between two and four thousand Lego pieces. It is filled to the brim. Most of the pieces are original pieces from the 1950s and 1960s and were procured in Europe. Many pieces, of course, have been added through the years. Seriously, I don’t know how I could fit another piece in that tub.

Sadly, none of my teeny tiny closets have room for this tub of fun and that is why it sits in my bedroom/office/arboretum taking up a lot of space.

Suddenly, as I stare into this corner, the Capitalist, left-half of my noggin kicked in, “Wait a minute. How much could I get for that tub of Legos? There are a ton of them, some of them vintage. Could I get enough to pay a month’s rent?”

I took a deep breath and a forceful exhale. I felt better. The expensive laundry hamper I would sell in a heartbeat, but not the Legos. If I had written a will that Lego collection would be included near the top of my list. Selling it would be a cop out. Leaving it to someone at your death is way cooler and way more powerful. The energy is way different.

I must now divulge the fact that I am (or was) a Lego freak. Back when I was a wee whippersnapper all you had to do to shut me up was set me down on the floor with several hundred Lego pieces. I would be totally preoccupied for hours.

Of course, back then (so long ago), you had pieces and nothing else. You used your IMAGINATION to build something with Legos. Nowadays when you buy something from Lego you’re just putting a puzzle together. The gestalt has moved from the right brain to the left.

To me, this is so sad.

Back when I was a pathological kid I experienced Legos differently than anyone I knew. My older brother was astoundingly indifferent to Legos. He was always bored within six minutes.

My two younger sisters were profoundly inept at BUILDING anything with Legos and had no desire to even try but they liked PLAYING with Legos. There is a profound difference. They would ask me, “Brother, would you build us a house and some cars or maybe a skyscraper or magic castle?”

So I would build stuff for them and then they would PLAY with it. They would take the little Lego “action” figures and play out all sorts of societal drama with them. PLAYING with Legos was to them a soap opera of emotional societal interaction.

How frightfully boring is that?!

To me, Legos weren’t about PLAYING. They were for BUILDING. I would spend an hour or two building some elaborate artistic creation then I would show the finished product to at least two people after which I would immediately tear down what I built so that I could build something new.

Most social media psychologists would surely see this as anti-social behavior and they would be at least partially correct. While I eventually learned to play the social games I never cared much for those games. I was always happier being all alone building something.

Many years later after my daughter was born my mother shipped that box of Legos that I built with as a child to me. Inside the box was a short note which read, “I asked your brother and sisters if they wanted this and they said no so I am sending it to you.”

What a disgusting way of putting it, no? But I knew she was lying and that was confirmed when I checked with my siblings all of whom said that she had never asked them if they wanted the Legos. My mother was right there during my childhood. She knew better than anyone that I was a Lego freak. Sending me the box of Legos was actually an act of love on her part. But she had extreme difficulty expressing love and always cloaked her love with meanness and derogatory statements. In truth, the box of Legos was probably the most cherished gift I ever received from her.

(Social media psychologists: On your mark, get set, go!)

So when my daughter was born I wanted to be the mommy so my spouse and I switched roles. I wanted to be the kind of mommy that was the very antithesis of my own mother. When my daughter was old enough I broke out that box of Legos…

…and to my utter dismay my daughter turned out to be just like my sisters. She had no interest WHATSOEVER in building things. All she wanted to do was play with the stupid “action” figures.

“Daddy, would you build me a magic castle?”

I built her countless castles and I bought more Legos so that I could build even bigger and more extravagant castles. I had to buy that big tub container to put all the Lego pieces in.

I also played with her. It really wasn’t so bad. It beat the hell out of playing with Barbies.

Eventually my daughter lost all interest in Legos and all the pieces went into that tub container where they remained for many, many years.

Now I’m a grandpa. When my two granddaughters were old enough I had them over and I broke out the Legos. And guess what?

They were just like my daughter and my sisters. They had no interest WHATSOEVER in building anything. All they wanted to do was play with the goddam “action” figures!

So the Legos have been in the tub container again for a couple of years now. The tub container makes a great little table for that ficus tree and the bowl of rocks. I had thoughts of giving my granddaughters the tub of Legos but what would be the point? They would never play with the Legos unless they had someone to build stuff for them. I decided to wait until I found some little boy who showed a propensity for building — after all, that is what Legos are for. I would then give the tub of Legos to the boy — keeping open the faint possibility that there might be some girl out there who likes to build, although I don’t hold out much hope for that.

You may be wondering about that bowl of rocks. It is symbolic. You see, rocks are a lot like Legos. You can build with them.

Many decades ago when I was in my thirties I worked as a rock artist/stone mason. I built rock walls, flagstone patios, stone staircases, waterfalls and anything that could be built with rocks. I was extremely good at it. My thousands of Lego hours as a child helped prepare me for it. I was also well paid. I made more money being a rock artist/stone mason than from any job before or since.

I have learned that when it comes to Legos there is BUILDING and there is PLAYING. Looking back over my life I realize that I have gone back and forth between phases of BUILDING and phases of PLAYING. And I’ve always been wealthier and happier when building and poorer and sadder when playing. (I’ve also built other things that did not involve rocks.)

Building things makes me happy.

So as the afternoon comes to a close and I stare at that tub of Legos I realize that right now in my life I am neither building nor playing! I am between phases. I could move the ficus tree and symbolic bowl of rocks and open the tub and start building stuff with Legos but that’s not going to pay the rent — even if I enjoy the heck out of it.

No, it is time for me to start building something — something that does not involve Legos or rocks. So leaving the Lego tub right where it was, I put down my tape measure and went for a walk. I had some thinking to do.

Copyright by White Feather. All Rights Reserved.
Writings of White Feather

Totally unrelated:

Earthling — Lifelong novelist & essayist —

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store