The Treehouse + The Cave

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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Discrimination, Isolation

Legos and Clover

Growing up, my family vacationed in suburban Maryland, where two of my mother's sisters live. On these trips, which happened often, the combined families would invariably split into two factions. The adults would socialize in the kitchen, drinking beer and preparing late lunches, while the kids, usually 6 or 7 strong once you counted neighborhood children tagging along, were left on their own, usually playing outside within view of the kitchen window.

On one such trip, presumably in early spring, we were cursed with constant rain and the parents were left in a less than quiet kitchen. Banished to the bedroom of an older cousin who had better things to do than socialize with children, my brother, sister, another cousin and I, kept busy playing with Legos. They had been stored in a large bucket with a tight-fitting lid, one that took the strength of two to open and occasionally destroyed a fingernail. Once open, we spilled the blocks out upon a thinning blanket, and each began our own little creations. As with all kids sitting around a pile, a Lego market spontaneously emerged between us. My sister would offer, "trade six 12-dot grey thins for a pair of the big tires?" and from across the heap, my brother would reply, "don't need the thins, how bout a red crystal windshield?"

Of course all the Legos were shared, so we didn't really have any custody over the pieces that we considered ours. The value in each piece was not that of ownership, but rather that it had been found in the pile in the first place. Being able to find a particular piece in the sea of similar plastic is a very valuable skill, an area in which I naturally excelled.

I'd scan the entire pile, and with ease, reach down 30 seconds later, pulling the piece out from the clutter. More impressive however, was that while initially scanning the pile I'd usually notice dozens of the desired piece, able even 20 minutes later (if the pile had been left relatively still) to return and collect additional pieces. This talent was useful to all of my playmates (I happily isolated pieces for anyone who asked), and eventually if I built Legos with you, you knew I could do it; I had a reputation that preceeded me.

The cousin playing with us that day had heard that I could find Legos quickly, but had never had a chance to see for herself. She dared me to find a particular piece, one she thought would be difficult, a 1-dot crystal thin maybe. I reached down and picked up 3 or 4. Only mildly impressed, she was clearly deducing a way to stump me. She led me, brother and sister in tow, through the door that led out past the back porch, to the wet grass below.

"Find a four-leaf clover" she said.

Impressed by the time it took her to come up with the challenge, I accepted, and 20 minutes later came back into the kitchen with 3 wilting clovers stuck to my damp palm. All 3 had 4 leaves. I was ecstatic, bragging more than I should have, only quiet once my aunt took me to another room to show me how to seal them between two sheets of wax paper with an iron.

The talent and my joy in it has stayed with me, as many acquaintances can corroborate. I've found contacts on sandy beaches, stray socks within piles of laundry 10 loads large, and diamonds that have fallen from their rings to gravel grocery store parking lots.

Anonymous Anonymous thought:

I hope you still have that Lego bucket so when my Grandchildren come, we can play together! xoxo :)aka mamajama

February 22, 2005 at 7:32 PM - Comment Permalink  
Anonymous Timothy Enright thought:

As far as I'm concerned when the lego's do split up between the three of us, I lay claim to one of the red BJ's containers. You can keep your european technics. (I'm sticking my tongue out)

February 22, 2005 at 10:44 PM - Comment Permalink  
Blogger pam coulter enright thought:

Hold on there everybody! I believe all those Legos belong to me. Don't ask me why (I know that if we all sat down and went through each and every one of them, you'd each be saying "I remember buying these with my own money.")... but for some time now, I've imagined rainy days with grandma and grandpa (still limber enough) down on the floor with Legos dumped on a blanket (just like days gone by). I like to think your kids will have similar memories.

Those Legos are going no where (while I am aware that you each have your own stash). And they're staying in their rightful homes - the BJs containers.

February 23, 2005 at 6:42 PM - Comment Permalink  
Blogger Andy thought:

Chill out guys, there's plenty of Legos to go around, and plenty of time before any grandkids will need them, calm down.

Also, for the record, all Legos are European, not just the Technics, (which by the way, I no longer have in my possession (they're all in the basement in Jerz).

Lastly, no one owns them. They are collective property under the custody of us all. They've been that way for years, and will remain that way forever. No need to get greedy.



February 24, 2005 at 9:20 AM - Comment Permalink  
Anonymous Anonymous thought:

Chill Out is right Andy.

Two more useless facts you wish you didn't know.

LEGO originated in Denmark (part of Skandiwegia)and the words LEg GOdt (meaning play well in Skandiwegian - or Danish in this case) form the name LEGO.

Apparently it also means in Latin -"I put together".

You shouldn't be sniffy (Anglo Saxon term for "dismissive") about Technic.

On one of my long and tedious stays in Nairobi during a period of curfew (part of the army trying to re-elect a new government without a ballot box), I escaped from the hotel to while away the hours with the kids of a colleague and ended up creating not only a vehicle that worked, but one with a controlled epicyclic differential, all without having to fight anyone for a piece.

February 24, 2005 at 10:15 AM - Comment Permalink  
Blogger pam coulter enright thought:

Ok, consider me chilled.

I have very fond memories of visiting my aunt and uncle every summer, digging way in the back of their hall closet and pulling out a big box of wooden blocks. These weren't your run of the mill blocks either - all kinds of odd shapes making building with them a real challenge.

I'd like to think future generations will have the same feeling by pulling out a big container of Legos.

February 24, 2005 at 2:16 PM - Comment Permalink  

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