So sad: I purchased a Halo Scorpion Mega Bloks set (note not Lego) today to bring to the office on Monday (we’re sprucing up the place a bit). I cleaned off the coffee table and got out the camera: ready to document the building.

I noticed that the flap was only stuck on with a piece of tape. Then I pulled out the instruction manual and some loose pieces came flying out. “Mega Bloks sure doesn’t have the same build quality as Lego,” I thought. I tipped the box and large pieces of tank came out. That’s when I realized that this was not a virgin set of building blocks. Some of the decals had even been put on! Now, it’s really hot out currently and I’m really lazy, so I thought about just keeping it and putting the rest together, but then visions of completing the set and finding 1 or 2 pieces missing flashed in my head and I decided it would be a good excuse to spend more time in some air conditioning rather than in the apartment.

So, back to Target. They accepted the return with no questions, but unfortunately, they had no other Scorpion sets and truth be told, I wasn’t too impressed by the build quality of the pieces I took out of the box. The whole experience got me thinking about how long I’ve been playing with Lego.

Like many geeks, I treasured my Lego set when I was a kid. I had a mish mash of sets: hand me downs from my brother and gifts from my family. I don’t remember playing with Duplos too much: I went straight for the regular sets. With every new set, I’d build the suggested model, play with it for a few days, then I’d break it up and toss it into… the box.

If you loved Lego, you had… the box. The pit of pieces that held half formed creations and some treasured masterpieces, swimming in a pile of plastic amino acids. Legos weren’t meant to sit completed on a shelf: they had to be in a state of constant flux: breaking apart and reflowing together. I can still hear the swish swish sounds of the box as I’d hunt for a 4×1 flat or a white 2×2. I shared a room with my brother until he left for college and I remember him telling me to go to sleep when I’d sneak out of bed to try to finish a model by the flickering light of the nightlight. That swish. Still music to my ears.

When I was a kid, I played one game with my Legos and that was the never ending battle of the Legos vs the action figures (mostly GI Joes). It didn’t matter if they were Joes or Cobra, they were all alignment evil in my game. On the side of the good were my Lego Technic figures. Since they were hurting for character diversity, I modded them up a bit: I put little wire Wolverine claws on one of them, gave another an eyepatch with a marker, and when their underdeveloped shoulder joints inevitably gave out, I’d make little lego exoskeleton arms for them so they could continue the fight. GI Joes had a life span as well: after a few years of karate kicks, their rubber band spine would give out and their legs would pop off.

The battle raged around the room every afternoon after school and all day on weekends. Detente was declared on Wednesday nights before the cleaning ladies came: everything went into the box until they were done. For years, this was a big process since there were also space ships and space stations to dismantle. No side ever won of course, and there were plenty of scenarios that were run over and over until they were just as intense as the latest movie I’d gotten to see. My Lego world was always space based.

My best friend Jason had even more Legos in his basement. He had a town that took over half a room. He even had- da da da- the monorail. His sets were always city based, however. We’d mostly play cops and robbers in his Lego world.

I don’t remember when I grew out of Legos, but I certainly remember the day my cousin did. He was older than me by four years and he used to play with me all the time. But one day, he told me that he was too old and he was going down to the basement to play Nintendo. I felt so betrayed. Pretty ironic given the amount of time I’d later spend on video games, but I digress.

Eventually the number of Legos dwindled as my mom gave stuff away or the GI Joes broke. However, every so often I’d get a set from relatives who saw me rarely but remembered how insane I’d been about building things before. I used to tell my mom that I wanted to be a Lego Builder when I grew up but then my sights changed to putting more conceptual blocks together.

Lego Head When I graduated from college, my brother got me a really cool gift: a Lego portrait of my Kip avatar. Abby and I put it together on the floor of our apartment. You get this sheet that shows the paint by numbers view and then a ton of tiny 1x1s. It’s a lot of fun (but you should pace yourself when putting them together: we started and then decided to finish in one sitting… our knees did not thank us).

falcon done
Once I got a job and disposable income, I noticed that Lego had caved to making branded sets: Star Wars was a big hit. And so I ponied up for a Millenium Falcon. I put it together and then… it stayed together. It resisted the box. I got more and more Star Wars sets (the X wing and then the Arc Fighter from Episode 2) and again they stayed together in their approved configurations. Too many specialized pieces to really rework into something. And of course, I’d graduated to video games. I still kept the sets on display in my room but there was no denying that some of that old Lego magic had seeped out: not from the sets, but from me.

However, whenever I visit home and see my godson, I’m so proud that the Lego building tradition has continued. He of course has plenty of Legos of his own at his hourse, but when he comes over to my parents house, the last remains of my old box are brought out. There’s still a red truck with a pneumatic pump still kicking; it was one of the last sets I ever got. He builds long space ships out of Lego city sets: the sort of primary colors you would never see on a USNC Scorpion tank. He explains which protrusions are the propulsion jets and which ones are the guns, and which ones can be used for propulsion and weaponry. One day he too will just put a set together and leave it on the shelf, but for now, he breathes new creative life into my old bricks, and I get to be 7 again. Sweet.

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