“Mom, will you build a castle with me?” My 7-year old son Logan asked.
His blond hair and blue eyes reminded me of another little boy about his age who asked me that same question about 25 years ago. My heart squeezed and and I said “Yes, I’ll build a castle with you.”
I got up from the kitchen stool and went with Logan into the guest room at my parents house where the Legos were dumped all over the floor. They crowded the floor, scattered among the displaced desk drawers and papers. My parents were remodeling this room. I sat on the floor close to the threshold of the room with the Legos before me. Logan seated himself across from me with his back against the desk drawers. The Legos were spread between us.
My mom kept all the Legos her children played with. The bricks before us were the same Legos that I played with when I was a girl. I loved Legos back then and I had quite a collection. In the 1980s and 1990s Lego had pirate and castle lines and those were my favorites. I had small island hideouts, little pirate row boats, and forrest men tree houses. The star of my collection was a large pirate ship complements of my grandparents for Christmas. It was the best Christmas gift I ever got from them. It took me all morning and a few tears to put it together. The pirate ship had everything: a captain’s cabin, lots of firing cannons, a parrot and monkey, three tall masts with red and white striped fabric sails, and my favorite: a female pirate. Back in the early 1990s there were not very many girl characters in the Lego sets.
My little brother added to the collection in the mid to late 1990s with his ninja sets. Playing with Legos was something we had in common. My brother and I would sit companionably together building with Legos despite our 6-year age difference. I know the purpose for each uniquely-made Lego block. I know from which set a piece was from and I remember how to use certain pieces for the greatest effect. It’s like stepping back in time. The quantity of Legos has decreased slightly over recent years. Grandma lets Logan take his creations home sometimes.
I told Logan what pieces to find and I started to build the castle. We found large doors; those had a special piece to clip them on to, where are they? There’s one. Good, there’s another one, we’ll need two. Logan collected all the pieces that have the little arrow loops in them. Those would be the castle walls. He also found a couple of pieces that looked like a bunch of logs fused together. They were about the same size as the arrow loop pieces and were from my little brother’s ninja sets.
Logan found all the accessories to go with a castle: helmets, bows and arrows, swords, cannon, flames, and shields. His accessories were a mixture of pirates, forrest men and ninja. We worked companionably together on the castle. He finds pieces to use and I find a way to use them.
Logan asked “Can I go swimming?”
“Yes,” I responded. “Chloe is already in the pool, Grandma’s watching her.”
Logan couldn’t stand the thought of his sister beating him back into the pool. Everything was a race to those two. He got up and went outside.
Our castle wasn’t finished. I continued to work on it. I added a second level, making sure everything is reinforced. There’s nothing worse than placing a Lego guy on a brick and the structure collapses from the pressure. I added another level and included places to insert the shields into the castle wall. I remembered doing that in one of my forest sets.
As I build my Dad wandered over to the guest room.
“Reliving your childhood, huh?” He smiled.
“I guess so” I replied, intent on my building. Dad chuckled and left me to my work.
I finally finished the castle working alone. It had two large doors, three levels, two shields in the outer wall, a cannon (Logan’s idea), and battlements. I wondered why I finished the castle without Logan working with me. I knew Logan would really love the finished product and I had fun building the castle. Even as an adult there is something satisfying in snapping bricks together.
But there was another reason I finished the castle without my son. I finished it for that other blond-haired and blue-eyed little boy who asked me that same question 25 years ago: “Do you want to build a castle with me?”
My little brother asked that question repeatedly for a few weeks in the mid 1990s. I was making my way out of the Lego stage. My pirate ship was dismantled and I was more interested in my friends and boys. When my brother asked me if I would build a castle with him, I told him no. But he was persistent and kept asking. I kept telling him no. I don’t remember if I finally acquiesced to building a Lego castle with my brother. I think I did but I don’t know how much of that is wishful thinking, hoping that I did the right thing by my brother.
There is a family resemblance between my son and brother. So when Logan asked me “Mom, will you build a castle with me?” I was transported in back time. It was almost like I was building a castle with my brother using the same Legos we would have used 25 years ago.