Sunday, November 19, 2023
Nine day weekend, Day 2: Great success. Today’s activity: Lego.
My brother Brian got me a Lego set last Christmas. I have never had a Lego set. The extent of my playing with Lego has been occasionally picking up a few pieces that belonged to someone else and randomly sticking them together to make nothing at all.
I’m not really the “make something from nothing” kind of person. I like directions. So this was right up my alley. A bunch of pieces coded in little numbered bags with pictures and diagrams that show you how to magically turn a few hundred green and pink and yellow shapes into a handful of wildflowers.
Ralph is the anti-me. He likes a giant box of arbitrary pieces that he can turn into whatever he chooses. To this day we have a box of his Legos from when he was a kid. They did not come with instructions.
But my brain is tired and sometimes I don’t want to think so this weekend as I sat in my crater and surveyed the chaos that I had no intention of doing anything about, I decided to stop putting it off and start playing.
I started yesterday, with a pair of scissors to open all the little bags, and a table that I cleared by shoving everything on it onto the floor.
The first thing I noticed: there were a lot of pieces. And a lot of the pieces were very, very small. Some of them were about half the size of a pea. I’m old now, and my eyesight is terrible and my hands aren’t as steady as they used to be, and did I mention my brain is tired?
I stared at the first page of instructions with all these numbers and arrows and things and thought… my nephew was building entire cities when he was four. I can do this.
I stared at the instructions some more. And then it hit me. This was like Ikea meets toys. You know those wordless instructions you get that show you where the tiny nuts and bolts go to build your bedroom set? The ones you squint at and turn upside down and sideways so you can figure out what the heck they’re talking about?
I’ve built lots of Ikea stuff in my lifetime. Surely I could conquer a daisy.
And I did!
Three tiny round things, six long-ish minuscule things, one flat thing, a weird looking elbow thing and a stem. Do that three times and daisies!
I was about as proud of myself as a five year old and immediately took a picture of my craftiness and sent it to my brother with only a fleeting moment of embarrassment that it had taken me eleven months to open his gift.
I had this Lego thing conquered and it wasn’t even dinnertime yet.
I moved onto the rose.
There were supposed to be three of them, so I thought I was being smart and instead of exactly following the directions (I was feeling rather grown up by this point) I decided to make all three at once.
I got partway through and then somehow couldn’t count to eight. And when I did count to eight it didn’t add up to a stem. And when I looked at the instructions again it didn’t seem like I had enough pieces to make three roses at all. I was convinced the set was missing pieces.
But eleven months later you can’t exactly send a thing back, can you?
So I soldiered on, counting to a eight a few more times and wondering why my flowers weren’t working. I decided it was time to break out the big guns and made myself a Sazerac.
This helped only marginally, because halfway through rose number two I dropped it and tiny half-pea-sized pieces went sprawling across the floor.
The Lego project was over for the day. Cocktail won.
But I started the project and I was committed to finishing the project, and after all I was still not planning on doing anything about the chaos of my apartment, so I picked it back up today. Instead of a cocktail, I brought in Ralph.
With much gesticulating toward obtuse drawings and a few complaints about missing pieces, I asked him to help me figure out the rose.
I’m the kind of person who, if you show me a circle and ask me to imagine what it would look like if you rotated it 90 degrees, would not be able to tell you.
Ralph is the anti-me. He looked at the page. He counted to eight. And a rose magically appeared.
The problem, it turned out, is that by not following the instructions I had missed the fact that not all three roses were alike. There were no missing pieces after all, just a few missing brain cells.
Things went fairly smoothly after that. I only dropped the rose twice more, had to take a pumpkin pancake break, then resumed with the snapdragon.
Did I mention there were a lot of pieces? At some point I had to insert 54 tiny rice-sized stems into 54 half-pea-sized petals. Fortunately I am 54 now, and I learned how to count that high.
But the end result was thirteen perfectly constructed flowers, except for that one where I couldn’t quite figure out what 3 and 1:1 and 2 and a thing that looked like a recycle symbol was supposed to mean so I kind of made it up and it looked pretty good anyway. They’re flowers after all, not cities, so they get to be imperfect.
It was a daring foray into making something from nothing. Just a little bit. And I only had to ask Ralph for help with one more but that was mostly because my fat old monkey hands couldn’t get the quarter-sized pea piece to connect with the other quarter-sized-rice piece. And only texted my brother once to say &@)#^@ WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? To which I believe he said Just stick something on and make it up.
The only conundrum was that the set did not come with any instructions for what to actually do with these thirteen flowers. I thought they might give me a base to stick them in and display them. Alas.
Not to be defeated by this lack of instruction, I looked around and noticed the jars of stones from my aborted countdown-count-up project and decided they would make the perfect little vases.
And so they did.
The only challenge now will be not accidentally lowering the blinds into them and scattering several hundred microscopic pieces across the floor.
I may be old and my hands may not be as steady as I want them to be and even with glasses on I can’t see either near or far, but for a few hours I got to be a kid again and play with my toys. It was quite fun.
Toys, it turns out, are highly underrated.
Maybe next time I won’t wait eleven months to open my Christmas presents. My friend Kaarina just sent me a wooden globe-lamp building kit so it seems I have my play cut out for me.
I can’t wait.
Photo: at some point I got smart and put the pieces into bowls so they would stop falling and rolling everywhere. Occasionally I have a good idea of my own.