In With The Old (Haunts), Out With The New
Volume III, Issue I - Spring 2012
  • I do not know if the Legoland I knew is gone. I only know that I cannot find it.

    Today I own three storage bins containing a multigenerational clutter. First, my cousins played in ‘60s Germany with the oldest yellowed Bauhaus-style windows and the brittle signs reading Würstchen and Restaurant in a red continental sans-serif font. Small scoops came in a plane with my mother over the ocean and acted as seed and substrate to catch my own childhood’s ‘70s and ‘80s froth of bricks: the astronaut’s gray-cratered moonscape, the larger yellow-faced people not even on eBay with heads like cheeses, the jewelry-tile set, the hospital’s white square walls. And the endless vehicles: the chewy black and knobby tires that could be pried from their happy red centers.

    After my son’s ’03 birth came a rite of continuation he could not understand. His Duplo referenced a complexity of bricks too sharp and still to come. Soon, soon, he would get the bin. We opened it, let him at this Ark, the strange whiff of hard plastic like thought itself, and he touched it briefly and shrugged at its pointy inertness. Then dallied later to make the same things we always made: crazy vehicles balanced on skinny wheels like rolling  ............

  • Praying Mantises, chock-a-block with windshields, doors from houses, satellite dishes.

    And then into the stew of two childhoods we added a strange leaven from complicated kits in grays and browns: Indiana Jones and Power Miners, spindles of suspended tracks and trick trap-door contraptions, Hogwarts I labored over, Lego you demon-lab, kits too precarious for a six-year-old to play with. We gave up, crushed them in a satisfying frazzle, and folded them all in. Every tiny thin twosie brick. This Ark will need an archaeologist to be resurrected.

    We often spread out the squares of Legoland and play. We make slalom runs of destruction on the streets of my childhood, and the Würstchen sign anchors my tank’s battering ram. And the sound is the sound like the sea I emerged from, the surf of pieces under a scoop of hand as one searches for a pair of legs, a long thin red piece. I remembered the noise of it, the plastic roar and a sharp-edged picking at the cuticles, but I forgot the sense of calm like the Buddhist instruction to sort seed in a shallow dish.

    For a moment I am home in Legoland, down near the soil’s  ............

  • nubbed surface, and the clatter of bricks is a forcefield. I smell the snug fit of bricks and remember hours piecing together a restaurant, a takeout place always near the same road, where the astronauts cooked pizzas. Nothing happened in the houses, which were blocked and strange in their crazy-quilt white blue yellow red stripes, bloomed sheds and garages but never much furniture. Always balconies and swimming pools, and my brother liked to wage battles. Snap click snap I am looking for a blue twosie—always the search, and the peace of knowing that the piece was there and would emerge somehow if one was quiet and allowed time to stop completely.

    No matter what battle, what kind of service at the roadside restaurant or what happened to the misshapen vehicle on the often-separated roadway, the little yellow faces smiled a sort of inward parenthesis. They felt their feelings but the faces were all the same calm smile: man, woman, killer, child, seven heads stacked in a freakshow parade.

    This is what I don’t see in Legoland anymore: the faces that I recognize. The landscape has changed, yes, with a technological shovel-full of destroyed Death-Star-Wars Gray, Indiana Brown  ............

  • and Hogwarts Mauve. But it’s the faces that leer up at me, yellow pills in my palm like rolling, grinning jumping beans.

    We have taken out the three drawers filled, and my son and I are searching for all the people. It is a grandiose and thrilling prospect because the characters now are so varied and specific. We have Harry and Darth, a thousand minions besides.

    He says it’s to arrange a war between his army guys and Lego people. But the goal—Ur-beauty of Legos—becomes lost as always in the process of new transfixing bricks revealed with a shift of pressure and gravity. Look at this little translucent green cube. I have seen it a hundred times, but today it could be an ice cube that is put on the head of an ice zombie—look! As we search, we idly snap together strange vehicles. We build a bank of bodies, heads, torsos, flailed and ready for action. SpongeBob grins as a tiny little manikin, and the PowerMiners sport five o’clock shadows on their yellow blocky faces. Each new head now has two expressions, sometimes two genders, one hiding beneath a hairdo and revealed with a twist. The princesses purse their red lips.

    “Put all the guys over here,” says my son. “But not the old faces,  ............

  • the yellow ones with smiles. Put them aside.”

    “Okay,” I say gamely as always. I stop as if looking for a brick I just saw and missed. I know by now to listen. “Why?”

    “Don’t you think they’re sort of creepy?” He says it with this child voice, my second grader, who loves his pirates best because he got them for Christmas, who fingers the secret sheen of new clean pieces, and with the stubble-heads mugging looks back, I imagine, at an inscrutable past, populated with blank heads before the Internet, the single faced and unadorned hard times. This is a place where heads have manly bristles and pirate teeth, where the princesses pout, where the yellow heads scowl and tell you how they feel.

    This is his Legoland now.

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