blocks

I don’t know why we call it a writing block. Blocks don’t always have to get in the way.

Legos, for example. Blocks that stack, link and lock. The beauty of a Lego is in its simplicity when alone, but its complexity when connected.

The Legos in my collection came in four colors: red, yellow, blue and green. The set resembled a crayon four-pack, the kind children get at family chain restaurants. The ones that have too much wax and too little pigment to be Crayola. (Impostors.)

My parents gave me a cleaned-out popcorn tin for storage, and that’s where the Legos called home. Various shapes and sizes came together in the tin whenever I was done playing and they made a fantastic noise if I tossed them in at just the right angle. The block clinked on the side of the metal cylinder and clinked once again when it landed on the bottom. Unlike most toys, half the fun was putting them away.

Pouring them out was a noisier, albeit shorter affair. Even on the plushest of carpet, the Legos clinked together in an unmistakable cacophony. I wonder what my mom must have thought.

There was a red Lego board, with the same Braille-esque raised circles for easy linking and connecting. It was an excellent starting place, a foundation for the buildings. But my Lego play was more of an urban sprawl and the buildings eventually expanded beyond the red board.

What I built was a mixed-use neighborhood, zoned for a wide variety of uses. Homes next to restaurants next to stores next to skyscrapers next to gardens. Community was limited only by how high I could reach, how many Legos I owned and how long I had until Sesame Street was on.

It was a only four-color community, but boundless nevertheless. Basic building blocks created something different every time. Imagination and Legos.

As I grew up, I lost the Lego intrigue. The marketers probably hoped I would graduate to the smaller Legos, those of the choking hazard variety. Those sets had more colors, tiny people, entire landscapes and megalopolises to build. But where’s the creativity when they tell you what to do?

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