Friday, January 31, 2014


For Christmas in 1966 (maybe '65) my parents gave me a big set of Legos.  They came in four colors: red, white, black and blue.  They had various sizes but mostly the ones I called "eights" for the eight knobs on top.  I was six (or five) at the time and loved them.  There was an instruction book that showed how to assemble the wheels, tires, and blocks (there was a little plastic tube that worked as an axle) and gray rubber wheels went over red, pulley like tires with short metal axles that fitted in the tube in a special "eight" that had holes in the sides.  There were two sizes of wheels: big and little (these are my own terms).  But, and this is important, if there were instructions on how to build things, I don't remember them.  Because, I immediately started building whatever my imagination could come up with.  Usually cars, planes, helicopters, trucks, etc.

I don't know what my parents paid for that set but it couldn't have been cheap.  And my father's parsimony in those days was legendary.

I played with Legos until I was at least 15.  I built worlds, made stories, had adventures.  It was amazing.  I would build a car and play with it for months, until I grew tired of it, and then I'd tear it apart and build . . . another one, different.  (The red eights were jet engines, in case you didn't know).

So when they were "age appropriate" for my children (all boys) I naturally bought them Legos.  But I was disappointed.  The Legos came with instructions to build the thing on the box.  Now maybe this teaches something about following instructions but I think it stifles the imagination.  And my children didn't ever build their own things, as I did for almost a decade.  They loved their Legos, they'd build the thing, put it on the shelf, and look at it.  It seems part of childhood was missing. (UPDATE: One of my children just informed me that they did, indeed, build original creations out of Legos.)

I need to thank my parents for giving me that first set of Lego (I still have what's left of them somewhere).  I cherished them and mourned when something was lost or broken (the gray rubber tires only lasted a few years, it seems).  A few other sets supplemented my original supply but I still have a special place in my heart for that original three-color set (especially the jet engines).

I think that Lego set got me interested in science and engineering.  I think it started me making up stories, something I do now full time as a writer.  That was probably the best toy investment my parents ever made.  It opened my imagination in ways perhaps even the creators of Legos never imagined.

What toy or gift helped put you on the road to your chosen field?

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