Volume 13, Issue 42 ~ October 20 - 26, 2005

Bay Reflections

From Legos to Logos
by Kathi Hanna

In today’s mail were application forms from three colleges, Army recruiting materials, invitations to Come Experience Life at several colleges I’ve never heard of, more news from the College Board and the fall 2005 Lego catalogue. These were all addressed to my son, a soon-to-be 18-year-old high school senior.

There was a time when the Lego catalogue was the most perused piece of reading material in our house. Each issue was studied, reviewed and discussed until it was tattered. The catalogue went on road trips, out to dinner and to bed every night. Items were categorized as must get; already have; not enough pieces; too many pieces (translate too much money); or too boring. The boring sets were usually the theme Legos: cowboys and Indians, knights and castles, that sort of thing. The most coveted involved vehicles: race cars, fire trucks, work machines (with hydraulics), police cars with stations, in later years Star Wars ships and of course, trains. The Bionicles came too late for our household but are high on my nephews’ wish lists at Christmas and birthdays.

Our son was an only child of two self-employed parents, and Legos became his nanny, babysitter, teacher and sometimes source of frustration. As in, “Mom, help! I can’t find a two-by-six yellow piece that has a hole in one end.” Sometimes this piece would be found painfully, by stepping on it barefoot in the dark. Several pieces were vacuumed up, but not nearly as messily as when Frank the Fish threw himself out of his tank and under my vacuum. But that’s a story for another time. A good Lego set could take four to five fall or winter afternoons to complete and was much cheaper than an aftercare program.
I got quite adept at combing through a box of 729 pieces and finding that one crucial piece that his eyes just couldn’t spot. If you’ve never seen the instructions for a 500-plus-piece Lego, imagine 15 pages of detailed blueprints that have to be precisely followed. I credit the Lego corporation with my son’s ability to put together anything, from outdoor grills to computers. Some hard wiring of that part of his brain occurred during those formative years.

There has been no serious Lego construction project in our home for six years, but I can still close my eyes and hear the sound of small hands raking through a box of pieces in the room next to my office, as he quietly hums to himself. The day a new Lego arrived was as good as any holiday. The UPS man became my son’s best friend; for a while he was just the Lego Man.

Over the years, the projects got very ambitious. How many families have standing in their living room a three-foot-tall replica of Lady Liberty made entirely of Legos? And how about that 3,000-piece Imperial Star Destroyer that I don’t know what to do with but haven’t the heart to take apart? Just what do you do with all those Legos once they’ve been assembled, admired by all, played with, then set aside? Several years ago, we took most of them apart and put them back in their boxes, with the instructions. Yes, I kept all the boxes above the garage. Legos are not cheap.

My younger brother, now nearly 40 years old, still has a large box filled with the Lego pieces of his youth. They are quaint by today’s standards. Pretty much the primary colors and very blocky, almost primitive. His daughters have their own sets of girls’ Legos, pink and purple with horses and flowers. These were not available until recently, but they just don’t have the grab of the boys’ sets, if you ask me.

My son came home from a long day at high school and soccer practice. Sitting at the kitchen counter, he brushed aside the college postcards and glossy recruiting brochures. I told him that the applications had come from some of the schools he was considering and suggested that he look at the essay questions to get a sense of what lies ahead. After opening one, he sighed. “One of the questions asks me to use the rhetorical device of logos to justify why majority rule is the most efficient governing strategy.”

His eyes found the Lego catalogue. “Whoa! Look at this, a Death Star, over 3,400 pieces with translucent bricks for a laser effect.”

I think I know what to get him for Christmas, this last one before he goes away to college.

Kathi Hanna is a freelance writer in Prince Frederick. This is her first story for Bay Weekly.

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