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LEGOs bring back memories of youth

Sept. 10, 2003

By Brian Phillips, columnist

I can't decide if it was Pirates of the Caribbean or sheer boredom. Perhaps it was a strange combination of the two. But something stirred me this summer, and I sought to re-live the greatest achievements of my childhood.

Yes folks, I busted out the LEGOs.

As a wee lad, life was full of colorful plastic bricks. My brother and I stored our collection in an army of Rubbermaid containers - enough to fill an entire linen closet. Day after day, we dumped thousands of tiny pieces onto the bedroom floor and spent hours sifting through to find the right one. By dinner our hands and knees were sore, imprinted by the carpet.

Castles, ships and space stations adorned every dresser, desktop and windowsill. LEGO bricks appeared in the laundry, behind tables and dressers. I was a registered member of the LEGO Builders Club and frequently begged my parents to visit LEGOLAND for vacation. I didn't quite understand how far it was to Denmark.

Needless to say, I was an official LEGO Maniac. But the day came when my brother and I left the LEGOs to pursue greater adventures. Thousands of bricks were retired to the attic where they would be forgotten throughout junior high and high school. But it's funny what college can do.

In the duration of my college career, I've rediscovered my love for art, my intrigue with old home videos, the importance of my family and most recently, the joy of building LEGOs. I spent this summer alone in Waco, and frankly, I was bored. While at home one weekend, I dug through our steaming attic to find those dusty Rubbermaid tubs. I brought down a few at a time, until an entire room was covered with containers. I was going back to Waco the next day, so I could only build one set. There was no question in my mind; I would conquer the Black Seas Barracuda.

For you non-LEGO people out there, the Black Seas Barracuda was the original LEGO pirate ship. She donned five majestic candy cane sails and four cannons and was crewed by the roughest bunch of plastic people on the Spanish Main. I bought her with my own pocket money at the tender age of 8. As I reassembled the vessel, I meticulously dusted each piece and ironed each sail so she'd be restored to her original glory. My parents watched in confusion as their overly serious son transformed into a 7-year-old.

Building a pirate ship brought joy back into my drab summer. Still, I couldn't help but worry about myself. There I was, on the brink of adulthood, playing with LEGO bricks. So where did I go in this time of trouble? The Internet.

In a Web search, I found an underground community of grown LEGO enthusiasts. A 35-year-old man had posted pictures of his creations on the official LEGO site. A Kansas City news article featured a 29-year-old with a LEGO city in his basement. I discovered e-trading sites where collectors could buy and sell rare sets for premium prices. So I wasn't alone in my immature interests. At least I knew there were people out there crazier than me.

I believe it's healthy to revisit and preserve the things we loved once upon a time, like keeping in touch with friends or hanging on to old photos. So don't feel strange when you dwell on the defining moments of your past.

Just think about me, laugh and keep going.