They are sturdy, colorful, cute and fascinating. They pop together, interlocking with a satisfying snap. Since I'm in a twelve (or more) step program for recovering collectors, I will admit that I was tempted to collect LEGO Toys. When I realized I had money to waste, somehow I acquired LEGO sets and bricks. Oh, I had my excuses. I bought sets on sale at Target to 'give as gifts.' And mostly I gave them away. But some, no. I bought bulk bricks online to do a project for a Christmas party at work where we let the kids make ornaments from them. Someone gave me a pile that had belonged to her son. He had 'outgrown' them. I bought some trains and LEGO Christmas sets to decorate a tree at work. A few people started giving me gifts of interesting sets. Some I opened and put together. Others sat in their boxes in a closet, under the stairs in storage.
In 2005, I realized that a number of sets and piles of loose pieces were taking up lots of cubic feet of space and that I had no reason to hold them hostage. I'm not even very good at assembling LEGO stuff. Three-dimensional things are not my forté sadly. Meanwhile, my niece in Colorado was raising a house of boys. So I found as many of the sets and pieces as I could and sorted them into types or piled them up by age group. Before Christmas I shipped a bunch of them to her. Santa brought the boys special bags of LEGO that Christmas. Some sets were put aside for later gifts. I still had some sets that were too advanced for the kids so I stored those awaiting a trip to Colorado where they could wait for the boys to grow up.
I felt good about giving them away. My niece talked about all the joy they brought and she said that one night when she and her husband were searching this trove of LEGO to pick gifts and decide what to save for later that he said: "You aunt is so cool!" You don't get that much from the young people. Even if he was a thirty-something Dad.
In June my Dad and I were able to drive his van up to see the Colorado relatives. I piled in stuff to give them and included the remaining LEGO sets. There was an electric train, mint in box. With the oldest great nephew only seven, it was still too advanced for them. I'd hoped to get the sets to my niece to hide away. But we were weary when we arrived and wanted to unload the van and the boys needed entertaining so we let them help unload. The oldest convinced his mom that he could put together a small set on the spot with her help and then he talked to his dad on the cell and told him that he got it together and "it was for eight year olds!" He eyed the train wistfully. We told him it was for much later or needed assistance from his dad.
The next day we planned a dinner to celebrate a birthday and anniversary. Eight adults, two feisty boys and two infants. So we went to a noisy Buca di Beppo. We met there and my seven-year-old great nephew insisted on sitting by me. He said he had something to tell me. He had convinced his dad to put together the train and they'd spent most of the afternoon on it. He was so excited about it and drew a picture of it on the kid's menu with some stick figures beside it.
"Is that you and your dad?" I asked.
"No. It's me and you!" He said.
Of course, he's a kid and he couldn't stop talking also about running things over with the train, like mini-figs and other toys.
Now I guess I can't show up without a LEGO in hand. I don't get to see these kids this Christmas but there will be a LEGO under the tree for that boy. It would seem that once you have 10,000 bricks you could make anything and wouldn't need more sets. But the sets fascinate the kids because inside are all the parts you need and these great visual plans for making something shown on the box.
I love the idea of LEGO. But the reality of owning bricks is now limited to a couple of Christmas ornaments stuffed away with the other Christmas stuff I haven't gotten out this year. Little elves and Santas made from a few bricks. And I can always go to Colorado and visit the collection and know that when those little boys see me they think of interlocking bricks. There could be worse things.