Hardware stores carry hammers, wrench sets, power tools and all the accessories. My husband loves to shop the aisles for himself and for anyone else he thinks needs a new tool. But tools did not capture his attention that afternoon.
A career in architecture once enticed him. He has designed his own workshop, built furniture for us and family members following his own plans. But it wasn’t a blueprint that occupied his time that day.
No, the time eater, the attention winner originated in a humble bag of toys from Goodwill.
I popped into the store to see if they had anything on my list of “if you see it, please pick it up” for friends and family. I found exactly what two or three people had asked me to find: a large bag of Lego blocks, obviously a jumbled collection of incomplete sets.
As I added them to my purchases for the day, I commented, “My grandson wonders ‘where is the Lego store’ where I buy his blocks. Today it is the Goodwill store.”
At home, I dumped the Legos in a low, shallow box to assess what I had purchased. No instruction books, just lots and lots of blocks to keep little hands busy creating. My husband sat down to the table with me. As we ate, we picked up Lego windows, palm leaves, wheels, axles and the remnants of space ships and transformers. At least half the box held traditional Lego blocks in red, blue and white.
I cleared the table of the lunch dishes. My husband and the Lego blocks stayed at the table for the next six hours.
Like a squirrel preparing to hoard his nuts for the winter, he sorted the blocks into shapes, colors and pieces made for once very specific purposes. The clatter of Lego blocks filled the afternoon as he sorted and began building. First, he assembled the palm leaves on top of the brown leg trunk on a Lego sheet painted to look like an island. He added some Lego men with whiskers and a couple of space aliens to the island. He would have added a canoe, but he could only find the paddle.
The orange wheels became moon rovers. The black wheels combined with a roll bar and a little hook to make a tow truck. Finally, windows, doors, slanted pieces and lots of colorful blocks became a little house with a white picket fence.
I saw that same creativity with Legos during our pre-television days. On a Sunday afternoon, he would take all the Lego blocks, dump them on the table and divide them evenly to each family member and challenge us to build something. Then he would proceed to trade all his miscellaneous parts for the matching wheels and axles he needed to build a vehicle of some sort. It provided a mind-stimulating way to spend a day of rest.
So I knew he liked Lego blocks. I just did not expect the reaction that came when I said, “Now, dear, I think it is time you picked up your toys and cleared the dining room table.”
A couple of hours later, after he had further sorted, boxed and bagged all the blocks, he protested when I reached to store his truck, island and moon rovers. “I want to leave those out so people can see what I made.”
He was quite serious.
We put the constructions on the window sill.
Holding the box and bags, I mused whether to split the Lego blocks between the folks requesting them or to just take all but a handful to one person.
“We don’t have any Lego blocks,” my builder protested. Thinking back to our grandson’s recent visit he added, “I thought we had a large collection of blocks here, but when I went to find them we did not have any.”
I asked how many I could pass along.
He did not want to share any. He wanted all of them.
I did not argue. It was the least expensive Christmas gift, with the greatest number of hours per dollar that I could ever have purchased for him otherwise.
So once again, I am checking my Lego store to see if they have any more blocks for the other folks on my list. I am sure that in time I will find some. When I do, I will hide them in the car until I pass them along to the rest of the folks wanting Lego blocks.
(Joan Hershberger is a staff writer at the News-Times and author of “Twenty Gallons of Milk.” Email her at email@example.com)