(Written by Steph Kurin)
I recently pulled out my Vacation Hideaway (Set #6592) from my childhood tub of LEGO I had brought from home. I couldn’t find the instructions, so I Googled them, of course. I liked this little set when I bought it, and as I built it again I continued to enjoy the details. Sometime that same week, I also found several AFOL websites, started chatting on forums and looking at MOCs… and, I was out of my “Dark Ages“! This resulted in buying some new LEGO too! I went to Target and bought the Camper (Set #7639) and Small Car (Set #3177), and then purchases quickly escalated on eBay. And when I found BrickLink, I understood why they call it “CrackLink”; buying plastic bricks individually is more fun than buying complete sets!
It’s been about fifteen years since I’ve done any serious LEGO building as an AFOL (I prefer the term “build” to “play”). My family and I spent a lot of time playing with LEGO growing up. My dad bought me my first set; one of those blue tubs that contains mostly bricks, along with some wheels and windows. This was in the mid-80s. He had grown up playing with LEGO, and wanted to share it with his daughters (I was probably six at the time, my sister three years younger). We opened the tub on our braided-rug in the basement and spread out the bricks. A house was our first build, and my first LEGO-lesson came that day; you want to overlap the bricks so your structure will be sturdy, as my engineer dad was quick to show me.
When I was nine years old, my family would do a child-exchange and I would be off to Michigan for a week to spend time with my friend Andrew. Other than running around in his backyard, we would spend hours with LEGO building. He had a small desk in his room, the bricks organized in Plano boxes on shelves above the desk. His dad built the shelves tilted toward the desk, so we could easily find the piece we needed.
As soon as a meal was over, we would look at each other and bolt from the table at the same time so we would be uninterrupted from his annoying little sister, too young for LEGO building. Andrew mostly built vehicles and I built houses. For his eleventh birthday, my brother and I bought Andrew the Gas Transit set (#6594). Andrew drew us a crayon-picture on his thank-you letter.
By the time I was eleven, I had three younger brothers. Providing more excuses to buy LEGO as birthday and Christmas gift – oh yes, I’m an enabler. One year I bought the Pirate’s Plunder set (#6237),with my own money, as a gift for my brother several months before Christmas. Every day or so, I’d take the little box out of my closet and look at it. I loved the way LEGO included alternate builds on the colorful boxes. In fact we would save the pictures when we had to throw the boxes away.
Our toy catalogs were well-thumbed each year, especially around Christmas. However, my parents rarely got us specific gifts we requested. So I would usually save my $0.35 weekly allowance and birthday money. One year it was the Paradisa Rolling Acres Ranch #6419; it was the first LEGO set I bought for myself. The pink pieces were new to me, but the set was perfect for a horse-lover. I put it together as quickly as possible so I could play with it, but it encountered much iteration over the years.
Our other LEGO was contained in my brothers’ room – we had a building-desk as well, and when Andrew took down his desk, he gave us his shelves. One of my favorite times was LEGO sorting-night. When things got too messy – we had many builds and the piles of bricks were taking over the desk – my dad would call a sorting-night and we would all pitch in. I still love the feel and sound of sorting; dropping bricks into containers, hearing the bricks clink-clunk together, and seeing the organization afterward. We sorted by type/size, and I still do today.
I’ve officially been an AFOL for a month now. I talked my mom into letting me sort through all of our family’s LEGO. She said there’s a 5-gallon tub, at least. I can’t wait to see what we have! Going through and putting those old sets together is likely to assemble more memories… 🙂