Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - March 6, 2015

"Leg godt" with LEGOs!

Art's daughter Karen and her family were here a couple of weeks ago for a late Christmas celebration. Karen mentioned in passing how she and significant other Mike had considered going to the LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Kansas City. But they were disappointed when they learned adults have to be accompanied by a child.

As we contemplated why that would be the case, Art did a search of LEGOs on his smart phone. Among his findings:

*The company, based in Billund, Denmark, was founded in 1932 by Ole Kirk Christiansen, who began by making wooden toys.

*In 1934, his company came to be called "LEGO," a contraction of the Danish phrase "leg godt," which means "play well."

*In 1949, LEGO began producing, among other products, an early version of the now famous interlocking bricks.

*Just this past month, LEGO replaced Ferrari as the "world's most powerful brand."

*As of 2013, about 560 billion LEGO parts had been produced.

*LEGO pieces are manufactured to a high degree of accuracy so they fit firmly, yet can be easily taken apart. The machines that make the bricks have tolerances as small as a millionth of an inch.

Wow! I had no idea that so many LEGO parts have been produced with such accuracy! What I did know, however, is that our daughters Mariya and Katie, as well as nephews Paul and Michael, nieces Gabriela and Larisa and "adopted" German son Tim have spent hours playing with LEGOs over the years. Mariya said:

I always loved Legos. Part of that was due to my constant fascination with miniatures, but I also really enjoyed being able to build so many different things that started with the same blocks. One of my favorite collections was my Lego helicopter. Unlike some of my other sets, it was built to move. Each tiny piece had to fit just right for everything to work, but once it did, it was a flawless flying machine.

I also had a set of pirates that were in a constant state of war with a tiny French battalion. Whenever I played out the story, the pirates were trying to take back their 4-inch island from those vicious French invaders (who were probably under orders from Napoleon, that tiny turd.) After a heated battle with cannon balls the size of beads and swords no bigger than a safety pin, they usually won the day. Even as a kid, I had a soft spot for the underdog.

Katie remembers playing with Mariya's LEGO sets with her cousin Larisa. She recalls a "cool island tower � like a pirate kind of tower - and an awesome helicopter."

I think there was only one girl LEGO figure in Mariya's original batch, so Larisa and I would trade off. (In) one "game" I would get to play with her as a character, and the next "game," Larisa would get to play with her.

Katie said she also liked to build houses with flowers and windows and fences with Mariya's generic set of LEGOs. She eventually got her own "Harry Potter" set.

Since the 1950s, the company has released thousands of other such sets with a variety of themes, including "Star Wars," "Super Heroes," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," "Lone Ranger," "Lord of the Rings," "Minecraft," Vikings, the Wild West and many others. The company also has LEGO-themed clothing, movies, games and amusement parks. My sister Gaila and hubby Humberto took Gabriela and Larisa to one such park - LEGOLAND California - in 1999.

"It was an amazing place," Gaila told me. "The Capitol made with thousands of LEGOs, all kinds of animals ... just the entire place was made out of LEGOs."

"I got my first license driving a LEGO car," Gabriela said. "Was so fun! And Larisa and I rode a dragon roller-coaster."

The fascination for the toys doesn't disappear with age. Whenever I see a LEGOs shop, I have to stop to see what animals, buildings or characters are displayed in the windows. When Art, Katie and I went to New York last spring, we went into the LEGOS store near Rockefeller Center. A gigantic snake-like dragon or dragon-like snake - made of LEGOS, of course - coiled its way through the store. LEGO sets of the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center and other New York landmarks were on sale. When our family visited Berlin in 2011, we were fascinated by the life-sized Darth Vader and other "Star Wars" figures in the windows.

When Tim, now 26, visted us in December 2010, we gave him a LEGOS set. He told me recently that he got some from his twin brother this past Christmas.

I will always play with them, no matter how old I am. But I guess I was a "hard-core" user until I was 15 or so. What I like about Legos is that you can relive your childhood memories and rebuild on your dreams. And I also love that you can be really creative and build your own fantasy worlds.

Mariya still loves the plastic toys, too. All the talk the weekend Karen and her gang were here prompted Mariya to go to her old closet, bag up her LEGOs and take them to her home.

Leg godt - play well!

Upper-left: Tim puts his 2010 Christmas gift together; lower-left: A young Mariya with her Duplo blocks also made by LEGO; center: Mariya, left, and Katie as Mariya gathers her LEGOs to take to her home; upper-right: nephew Paul's children Sydney, Erynn and Chase with Christmas LEGOs from Great Aunt Gloria; lower-right: Larisa, left, and Gabriela in front of a White House made from LEGOs.

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