Growing up one of five kids in the pre-internet, pre-VCR, pre-XBox, pre-ipad 70’s and 80’s, my parents relied heavily on Legos to entertain us. Every Saturday was date night for them, so one of the brave teenage twins from next door was coaxed into coming over to watch us, and our fun would begin around 5PM. The sitter would arrive and see my parents off, then we’d gather in the den and turn on our 24” television set just in time for Hee Haw to start. Right as the theme song began, we would ceremoniously dump out the two giant boxes of Legos we’d accumulated over the years. Flat green and gray square foundation plates were distributed. And we got BUSY!
I (future Realtor) liked to make my dream mansions, my brothers (future doctors and engineers) designed hospitals and skyscrapers, and our baby sister would crawl around trying to knock everything down. The instruction packets and original boxes never lasted long in our house, so it was freestyle building from the compatible mix and match sets. The pieces I remember were primary colors or white and riddled with tooth marks from stubbornly stuck-together pieces resourcefully being pried apart in our mouths. We referred to the bricks with simple names like “red one-by-four flat” and “black two-by-six brick”. We improvised when we couldn’t find the exact pieces we needed, making larger bricks from smaller ones, and the projects always turned more colorful at the end of the night when the central pile was small and picked over. Usually, we took a quick break for TV dinners when Star Search would come on, then resume building til 8:30 PM bedtime when our masterpieces were connected to form a city on our fireplace hearth. This would be displayed for a few days, then dismantled in preparation for the next Saturday night session.
Fast forward to 2017 and now I’m the parent needing date night on Saturday, and it’s quite different. My daughters have also amassed a hefty Lego collection, but the sets are so specialized and pieces so varied that they almost seem disposable, designed for one-time use. One glance at a piece and we know exactly which set it came from. A couple misplaced pieces and the set can’t be rebuilt unless we use Lego’s Pick a Brick website where replacements can be ordered. There are fourteen color families and fifty-six categories ranging from movie characters to giant sub sandwiches to motorized roller coasters. There are now over 12,000 different types of pieces made, and sets go from $5 mini kits to the elaborate $800 Millennium Falcon with its 496-page instruction manual. Directions are also available online, and the brilliant orange separator tools keep the blocks pristine and out of the mouths of babes. We do build the sets and do our best to keep them intact and organized, but space is finite and entropy is a powerful force. So we now have our own large bins of mixed up pieces that just don’t seem to go together how they used to. Our Lego bins have to compete with iPhones, Minecraft, and Netflix, and sadly they go untouched most Saturday nights.
Still, I will follow tradition and buy Legos for my girls for Christmas. Luckily it’s garage sale season, and this year I am on a mission to find some good old-fashioned sets of used fundamental blocks. Or I may ask my parents to pull our old Lego boxes out of their attic and bring them back to life. I have a fantasy night planned during the magical days off between Christmas and New Year (we used to call that “Lego Week” growing up). We’ll all set our phones aside and just talk and build for hours. Maybe we’ll put Hee Haw reruns on YouTube in the background for old time’s sake, and I love not yet knowing what we’ll build!