Reliving my childhood

May 3, 2011

The desire had been gnawing at me for some time. Especially since I have a bit of free time on my hands; I need books from the library to do some research for this new novel, but they’re not going to be in for several days. I tried to ignore my urges, but my eyes kept drifting to the basement. My fingers itched, aching, longing, until at last I could stand it no more.

I descended the narrow stairs into the darkness. Dust bunnies clung to my socks; old cardboard left a musty smell on my fingers as I shifted boxes. Finally, I found what I was looking for.

Several hours later, I’m taking this break to ease my back and write this post (while I am chronologically and, evidently, emotionally young, I have the back of a ninety-year-old). Honestly, I’d forgotten just how awesome LEGO is. I’ve found a few half-broken creations that I can remould into interesting new things (mostly spaceships). I’ve remembered that feeling of designing, testing, and building that always made me feel like a ship’s engineer.

And best of all, as I unearth old ships and minifigures, the stories are coming back.

LEGO sparked so many stories for me. Sure, some of them had their roots in the “official” story LEGO was using to sell this set or that set, but an awful lot evolved into totally new stories. Example: I had Martian and Atlantis LEGO sets. I got around this apparent discrepancy by deciding that the “Atlanteans” were actually Martians who had crash-landed in the oceans and rebuilt their civilization underwater.

And remembering all this made me think: toys were better, back in the day. Yes, even in my day. I don’t want to sound too crotchety, but the old toys made you think, and imagine, and problem-solve. They made you figure out how to share, use your words, and wait your turn. They unleashed the stories waiting inside of you.

Newer toys don’t do that as much. If a puzzle piece in a real puzzle doesn’t work, you turn it over, rotate it, feel it in your hands. Maybe you work through the puzzle with a friend. If a puzzle piece in an online puzzle doesn’t work, you click a few times, and discard it. I just feel like there’s something missing there. I feel like it’s a lot easier to buy into the “official” story of whatever game you’re playing.

Now, I have a lot of faith in the power of imagination. I’ve worked with kids for years, and I’ve seen that they’re still capable of grabbing some stuffed animals and making up a story. Imagination is a huge part of being human. I don’t think it’s going away.

But I wish we allowed it more space to breathe.



One comment

  1. Amen! Nothing wrong with Lego. Or a box of crayons and a blank sheet of paper. Or a forest near the house. Whatever gets the imagination going is worthy.

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