LEGO blocks originated in the Billund, Denmark workshop of Ole Kirk Christiansen, who began making wooden toys in 1932. Two years later, he named his company LEGO after the Danish phrase leg godt (“play well”). In 1949, LEGO produced its first plastic brick, a precursor to its signature brick, with interlocking studs on the top and tubes on the bottom. It was patented in 1958 by Christiansen’s son Godtfred Kirk, who replaced his father as the head of the company.
I wonder if my life would be different today if I’d have played with LEGO when I was a kid. Note I referred to the interlocking blocks in the plural as “LEGO,” not “LEGOs” because that’s proper.
And that’s really where my knowledge and interest of LEGO begins and ends, surprisingly, since LEGO (the company, singular) was and LEGO (the blocks, plural) were established long before I was (ahem) established (in the singular, thank God).
When I was a kid, I had lots of toy interests, from building sets like Tinkertoys and Lincoln Logs, to other cool items of the day, such as Hot Wheels and electric football, to board games like Operation, Sorry, Life, Battleship and a rare game I received one Christmas and haven’t been able to locate since, called Tilt.
I also rode my bike and played all kinds of sports. Yet, I don’t believe I ever owned even the most basic set of LEGO. (I know, I want to throw an “s” on the end every time; gets annoying, doesn’t it?)
It’s not that I didn’t like them. Fact is, I don’t remember them being that popular when I was little. It was only since my kids have been around that they’ve taken off among both young and old, with sets of such scope and complexity that even one steeped in assembling small engines or IKEA furniture (the plural of which is IKEA, by the way) would be impressed.
Yet, they were around, these LEGO, and not at all difficult to find, although not as easy to find as when you’re a parent of young, LEGO-loving kids. Just walk around your house without shoes, and you’ll find them grinding into your sole – and eventually, your soul – every few seconds.
But I digress. How, with all the times I looked at toys during shopping trips with my mom, every time I pored over Christmas gift catalogs and flyers, and the thousands of hours I played with friends and cousins, did I not realize the potentially life-changing power of the LEGO? (This time, for effect, I used it in the singular. You couldn’t tell, could you?)
And further, had I discovered it (or them) in my formative years, how would that experience have molded my thinking? Would it have driven me to different interests, in things like architecture or engineering? Would it have compelled me to a pursue a different field of study, or taken me away from other lifelong hobbies I developed, such as sports, music, crossword puzzles, and counting stairs. (I call that one a “hobby” because I don’t like to admit to some OCD tendencies.)
And, had I followed the LEGO path instead of occupying my time with things like incessantly throwing a rubber ball against the garage, helping Mom with her jigsaw puzzle, or dreaming of becoming a game show host as I watched Art Fleming quiz contestants on Jeopardy! (at a time when a young Alex Trebek had just started his own burgeoning career on High Rollers, which I also watched), where would I be today?
Interesting question, isn’t it? LEGO (plural) are huge (ironically, as they seem to get physically smaller) and to say they haven’t changed the way kids (and more recently, adults) play would be denying the elephant in the room (a 5,432-piece elephant with 14 pages of instructions which will tell you it should take two people approximately three-and-a-half hours to assemble).
And if it (LEGO as a company, singular) has changed how people play, then it has likely changed lives, much like Yo-Yo Ma’s first cello, Jonas Salk’s first chemistry set or Dennis Rodman’s first … well, you get the picture.
That’s some deep s**t, isn’t it? (I have my moments.)
I’m not saying my life would be completely different had I substituted LEGO (plural) for one of my other childhood toys, or had I added them to my already packed roster of interests, diversions and activities.
After all, Tinkertoys didn’t drive me toward architectural design, Operation didn’t lead me to medicine (we can all thank our lucky stars for that), and Hot Wheels didn’t fuel a passion for auto racing.
I just wonder sometimes. I wonder if something like that could have – or would have – changed how my eyes see things, my brain thinks about things, and how it might have changed my path.
One thing I do know: if I were to pick up LEGO (plural) as a hobby today, I think I’d want the basic building blocks that would allow make my own creations rather than a pre-designed kit. That seems more fun to me.
Anyway, I was just thinking, and that’s what happening when I’m “just thinking.” Now, if you’ll excuse, I’m going to see if I can find the game Tilt online.
© 2021 David R. Haznaw