Learning from the master

As a grandpa, you could say I’ve been around the block before. But when it comes to little tiny blocks that fit together to make intricate and fantastic assemblages that spark the imagination, I’m a little lost and must bow to a master.

That master would be my 5-year-old grandson who is kind of a Lego genius. I think so anyway and I am worthy only to be his personal assistant in times of intense creation.

Yes, I’m talking about the venerable Lego building brick brand that has been around for ages.

But to my grandson, the word “Lego” isn’t a company, it’s an idea—and it’s one of the first words he has learned to spell and write. The idea is that fun materials and meticulous process yields really cool results—like swift looking space crafts and an underwater hangout for heroes.

He knows what is in those boxes when a new Lego project arrives. He sees the photo and immediately knows what the contents should become.

I can only wait for him to rip open the numbered bags that come with each project before I am of any use.

Usually those numbered bags carry inside them a full million little pieces. Fortunately we have learned that the bags should be opened onto a lipped tray rather than onto the open table where they will certainly bounce crazily, slide off the table and down into the nearest air vent.

But there is no waiting, no hesitation once the bags are open. The master’s eyes dart from the instruction booklet to the mass of tiny pieces in front of him and he immediately begins to build.

I must look at the mound of pieces and make some sense out of it. I sort the pieces into colors and place like shapes together. The master simply grabs the exact piece he needs from anywhere in the pile.

I have acted as the master’s personal assistant on numerous projects and have shared the joy of creation. But I was not ready for what came recently.

I once again had come to serve the master when he pulled me aside and gave me a present—my very own Lego project!

I thought it was just another way to work on something new. But no, the master made it clear that this was not his project, but mine. I was on deck to be the head builder.

Now I was really on the spot. I had to decipher the instructions, squinting at the tiny illustrations, trying to decide exactly what color and shape they really meant for me to find.

I was so slow that the master got busy with something else entirely and I was left to struggle on my own. It was decided that I should go ahead and pack up the pieces and finish it at home.

I did so and was proud of my accomplishment. But the lesson I learned was that there are Lego geniuses and there are those who are not. I may be one of the latter.

But someday I hope to be as cool as the master. Until then, I must train. I must practice. I must build with the laser focus the master does. Only then will I be more worthy.

Tim Van Schmidt is a writer and photographer, and grandpa, based in Fort Collins.