I’ve loved Legos since I can remember. I don’t remember my childhood without having Legos. My love for Legos progressively changed over time, but the theme of creativity always remained the same. Unfortunately, for everything build, things were destroyed.
At the beginning, my brother and I would get two of the same set because we would fight over them. The first one I remember was Robinhood’s hideout. Then there was the Christmas where we got the pirate island with the trap door that landed a poor soul into a jail.
Every time I went to the airport to fly to Michigan to visit family, I would design another airport. Every trip to the space center would result in a new campaign for space conquest. Every time the new catalogue came out, I would find myself buried in the pages and the images, imagining if only I had more money, I could build a fantasy LEGO city where I could live out my fantasies with relative safety and maximum storyline control.
I moved a few times in elementary school, and each time, most of my Legos got destroyed. However they were packed, moving generally meant starting over again. While I was young, that was fine, but as I got older, I had a harder time with it. Each creation had more time and creativity than the last. It was difficult for me to have to start over.
In middle school, I got my own room. When we were all choosing our rooms, I didn’t even care that I had the smallest room. I just wanted a place of my own. I wanted a small slice where everything was controllable and safe. So I built a city. I started with a few simple features like an airport, a gas station, a cruise ship, and roads.
In due time, the city grew. I added more features, and eventually, I designed my city to have a downtown with a large airport, seaport, and space stuff. The downtown had tall skyscrapers, and I had once built a skyscraper that could touch my 11 foot ceiling.
Unfortunately, I am lacking photos for that time period.
In 9th grade, I felt a little out of place relative to my friends. They didn’t play with legos, and my city was taking up most of my room. I decided to destroy everything. I’m not sure if I had much of a plan. Maybe it was good to scratch everything because many of the good parts were tied up in other models. Every new design had to pull from older ones. Sacrifices had to be made as there was always a supply constraint. While I was quite creative, I felt a need for change.
So I destroyed everything.
I knocked down tall buildings.
I wrecked stores and houses.
I crashed planes.
I sank boats.
I earthquaked roads.
I only spared bodies.
Left with a pile of legos, I felt sadness and loss. Even if I tried, it would take a long time to rebuild that. I had rare pictures of my city, and I hadn’t taken new ones in awhile. That’s what I really regret about it.
Then, I built a mega fort. It slowly grew, and I started building large weapons. Lego sets in general don’t have guns or weapons. I got creative. I wonder how much of it was an outlet for feeling afraid at school, feeling bullied, and lacking a way to handle the emotions.
My cousins came to visit, and one of them was only 5 or 6. He asked if he could play with my Legos. Sure! He promptly took all the heads, arms, and legs off of the 300 mini figures I had at the time. I was quite upset. He asked if I could build a submarine.
Over the years, I had loved to build submarines. I believe the movie Hunt for the Red October greatly influenced me, and I aspired to make a submarine with a mini submarine to go between subs. My first version was in third grade. I made another, better version in middle school with a curved hull.
After having all the parts available to me, I built a new submarine. This one was far more interesting. It was longer, and I had the freedom to do whatever was needed. So I added front and rear torpedo tubs, 8 nuclear missiles, a conning tower with a ladder, a captain’s office, and amenities for the crew. My submarine was a mix between WWII design and a more modern submarine.
Then we moved to Paris, and I destroyed this large fort. Only a handful of things avoided destruction: a technic motor cycle, a police helicopter, a pizza truck, and the submarine.
In Paris, I had the spark of creativity, and I built a full navy centered around an aircraft carrier. I suspect it was in part because I was living in a new place and was afraid of the unknown. These fears went away the second year. I was also into military history especially naval history in WWII.
I was also infatuated with rockets and the space race, so I built a rocket. Not satisfied with the first version, I built one twice as tall as the original and wider as well to accommodate a lunar lander. Part of this infatuation may have simply been trying to or wanting to escape from how I was feeling at the time.
Then, we moved back to Detroit, and I had to rebuild sets broken en route. When I went to grad school and got an apartment with my soon to be wife, I had some extra room. I brought out all my Legos, and she didn’t quite know how many I had. I asked where I should put them. She said in the living room. Sure enough, I did, and they took up half of the living room. She was upset when she saw that, and I moved them to the spare room.
After that, I moved them once by myself and once by a moving company before they ended up in the first house my wife and I bought. I was so excited to finally have a house where I could make the room to have a city again.
Construction started with street layout and city design theme. The aim was buildings around the same height, four stories high. I wanted a density city center. Then I expanded to a farm, an airport, a naval port, a space port, and an oil rig.
I built a church, a bar, a hospital, a library, a bank, a nuclear reactor, and a slum, to name a few.
Then I moved to California, and I only brought the pieces that were not build, so about seven boxes. I left the rest for fear of moving them and not having the space to build them. At the time, we had one baby, and within a few years, we had two more kids, so my time to even build legos was very limited.
I still built a library and a few sets, and every time I went home, I was so happy to see my city. I was also sad to leave. My city always felt like a refuge for me. It wasn’t art as much as it was a safe place that I could make exactly how I wanted.
We decided to sell the house because we weren’t moving back to it even if we moved back from California. So I had to box everything up.
I took the time to take a lot of photos of all my sets, and I decided I was going to devise a way to pack my legos without later having to open boxes that were a hot mess. I certainly don’t have the time to rebuild everything.
I took each set, and I put it into a plastic grocery bag. I got bags from the mountain of bags my family had saved, but still, I didn’t always use one bag per set. Some times, a few sets went into one bag. The bags didn’t keep them from breaking; the bags will help contain the breakage and make rebuilding easier. Some times, I had to use large black plastic bags due the size of some sets.
Finally, they were placed in the bins, and I carefully arranged everything to maximize the space I had. Finally, everything was packed. I can only hope it won’t be in storage too long, and I will once again build my Lego city.
Further readings of mine: