Sunday, February 16, 2014


It happened in a rush, a rush that had taken what seemed like forever. My son packed up all his Legos from underneath his bed and carted them down to our basement. This move wasn't the surprise. It had been in the wind for some time, but the action came in a rush. All those blocks, wheels, rods, and tiny men were shoveled somewhat unceremoniously into boxes and suddenly they were part of the past.
This isn't to say that they will be forgotten. A great many of the Lego sets I played with as a kid were preserved in my mother's house, as mothers and their houses will do. I fully expect that some or all of the bricks that found their way out of my son's room will rest comfortably beneath us, as so much of our family's past does. Still, this was part of his life from the time he fell in love with trains and before he switched fascinations to cars. He built trains. He built cars. And starships and houses and forts and machines that only he understood. That didn't mean that he wouldn't take the time to explain them to his parents. We were treated to extensive presentations on his latest creations, including the painstaking details that he included in every build.
Most of these creations came from long periods spent in the Lego Lab, underneath his bed. When he was very small, we raised up his bed so that he could have room below to work on projects, to stretch out, to relax. Year after year, birthdays, Christmases, and assorted occasions brought more Lego to our home, and joined the ever-expandng pile. We worked, or more honestly, my wife worked to control the swelling mass of tiny pieces, separating them into ever-smaller categories of plastic bits. It was mother's idea to make the son's creative process smoother by making those little gears and sprockets and tubes easier to find. After years of attempting to stem the tide, we surrendered to this rule: Legos must remain under the bed. Completed models could be brought out for display, but the flood needed to be contained in the shadow of the bed above. When we cleaned his room, we dusted and swept right up to that line, kicking the odd brick or wheel back into the dark recesses.
All this time, he never stopped building. Not with the frequency or duration that he used to, but there weren't too many months that went by without him finding some expression in Lego. Until the calendar turned to February 2014. The Saturday before the Super Bowl, he took it upon himself to shut it down. The Lego Lab was closed, and the forwarding address was downstairs. There are a few remnants: a Bionicle here, a twelve-cylinder engine there. These will remain. Other bits and pieces may resurface in time, but the Lego sea has receded. All those late nights or early mornings when I cursed the tiny plastic shard that found its way into my bare foot were over.
I don't remember who said it, but when I went to ask my son why it was finally time, I think we both knew the answer. We both knew that a young man at this age starts to fancy himself more of a bachelor. Bachelors have bean bag chairs and lava lamps in the little nook under their beds. They don't have piles of Lego. Not if they want to entertain young women in that space. Even if this notion is the purest form of teenaged boy fantasy, it was time for him to move on. Unless there was a daydream of constructing a perfect Lego mate from the toys of his youth. If he changes his mind, all those parts are still in the basement.

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