Lego Meltdown

It’s Max’s birthday and there’s not a thing in this world I wouldn’t buy him if I had the money; that is as long as he couldn’t hurt himself with it. Which, come to think of it when you’re talking about a 7 year-old boy, that’s pretty much anything. I guess the best I can do is to teach him to keep the pointy parts pointed at a wall most of the time.
So I went to Toys R Us (the keyboard doesn’t have a backward R) to see what I could find him. Now you know (from all my previous whining about it) that Adam and I are on a budget. I don’t regret my life as an activist/artist but while that line of work is replete with personal satisfaction rewards, it way in the red when it comes to job security and pay… well, most of the time. I don’t mind. When I’m on my death bed, I doubt I’ll be laying there wishing that I’d made another thousand bucks here or there. Hopefully I’ll be happy that I at least tried to make a difference. Plus, at the end of this long, long med school journey for our family, I will married to a doctor. For now, being a med student pays a little bit worse than being an activist. They actually charge to be a med student; can you believe it?!
So all this to say is that, until I make it big as a writer/actor or until Adam gets the ole “MD” after his name. We pretty much live hand-to-mouth all the time. But goddammit it’s Max’s birthday and I love the little feller as much as if I’d made him myself. I wanted to get him some Lego. He LOVES Lego. I love Lego. Hell, I’ve loved Lego since 1968.
So when I got to the Lego aisle… er, make that Lego aisleS, I realized that a lot has changed in Legoland in the last forty years. Back when I was sticking the little colored pieces of plastic together, there were certainly pictures of suggestions of what you COULD make with the contents of the box but now, well, it’s pretty clear what the Lego gods intend for you to make. There are little Atlantis people with underwater vehicles so that they can maneuver around the lost aquatic city, every version of Star Wars creature- and their family spaceships, cops, construction, and even Indians (feather, not dot; although I’m sure they’re available in India and elsewhere. Come to think of it, all this Lego probably STARTED in India.)
During the time I stood there, slack-jawed and staring at this wall of colored plastic I started to realize my spiraling mood. Why was I so sad? Was it because I hadn’t had such a terrific choice of Lego when I was a boy? Maybe I felt sad that today’s Legoers aren’t forced to use as much imagination as I was. Nowadays, it’s pretty much a given what you’re going to make. Was I sad for the little Lego pieces themselves? I mean mine had an opportunity to be a part of million different things over their life of being little Jeff’s Lego block. A single four-dot square red would, over the time that I had it be a part of an airplane, a ship, a house or a dog. In today’s version once Luke Skywalker’s taillights have been snapped into place, they’re pretty much done. Was that what had me choking back tears?
Nah, I know what it was. It was the price. I only had about $20 to spend and what I found was that that would only buy the next-to-the-smallest set. I saw several of the larger ones that I know I’d love to have had when I was his age. Hell, I’d love to have them now! The biggest and most elaborate set I saw topped out at about $200. But they still sell. I must have seen ten kids and their parents come and go while I stood there, whimpering, remembering, wishing. I’ll bet their parents aren’t activists.
Maybe one day I’ll be able to afford the fancier sets. Maybe not. For now, I settled on one of the four “racer” varieties. It looked interesting enough to keep his attention for at least a little bit of play after the building was done. I’ll keep working hard to get the play to New York and maybe one day I’ll be able to afford the whole airport set. Until that time, I’ll have to make up for it by showing him all the wonderful places that Luke’s Lego Landcruiser can go.


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