All your Space LEGO base are belong to us, or, Memories of sparkly legs and being baked by the space heater

This past Christmas I received a very unique and wonderful gift from my younger sister, Carmen. My sister gave me LEGO, but not just any LEGO; this was LEGO from my past. When I was growing up we had several different LEGO sets from the basic red blue and yellow sets to fancy castles. As a young boy I would spend hours in the front porch of my parent’s home building with LEGO. I would build and rebuild the specific sets, but I found myself spending most of my LEGO time exercising my imagination and creating my own structures and landscapes. As I grew older, I spent less and less time playing with LEGO. However, a tradition had come about in our house, quite organically, that occurred at Christmas time. It was at Christmas that myself, and my two sisters as well, would pull out the LEGO and rebuild the sets.

IMG_3965
My Christmas present.

As I have said, we had several different sets, but my favourite sets were the space ones. I loved building those sets, but I also loved creating my own ships and bases using the pieces from the sets. The best pieces were the base pieces which were grey and had mounds and craters on them, and the scaffolding-like pillars that could be used as building supports or tail pieces for ships. Over the years pieces became lost, as LEGO is wont to do, and I would  scavenge from other sets to compensate. When I left home, the LEGO stayed at my parents’ house. As the years passed I began to think about LEGO only in passing.

The cool craters.
The cool craters.
The cool supports.
The cool supports.

Now that I have two children of my own, LEGO is back in the house. My daughter, Abigail, was quick to pick up LEGO very early on and I am constantly amazed at what she is able to create at only six years of age. My son, Graeme, who is three, is beginning to discover LEGO as well; and I find now that I am rediscovering LEGO myself. In addition, one of the programmes we offer at the Children’s Library I work at is a weekly LEGO club, and I have had the pleasure of hosting this club several times since starting there a year and a half ago. With the reintroduction of LEGO into my life, imagine my delight as I opened my gift from Carmen and discovered all three of the space sets, the original sets, completely reconstructed. It seems my sister had picked up the sets from my parents, went through the instructions, which we still had, and by way of online sellers, purchased all the missing pieces for each set. It was a Christmas miracle!

6930.
6930.
918.
918.
6970.
6970.

A couple of days later, I set to work building my Space LEGO. I made it a point to include Abigail in the process, as she has clearly shown an interest and it was a perfect opportunity to share some quality time with her. As we worked on the sets I told my daughter about how I played with these very same LEGO when I was young. At the same time I was reminiscing to myself about the times I spent in my parents front porch. One specific memory that came back very strongly involved the space heater we used to have. My parent’s front porch, although enclosed, was quite drafty in the winter and so we had an electric space heater. I had the habit of sitting right up against that heater as I built with the LEGO on the floor. I would get so hot from the heater that my skin would get itchy and I would have to pull away periodically to cool my skin down. Then I would snuggle back up to the heater and continue building. I would spend so much time cross-legged on the floor that the circulation in my legs would get cut off. This meant that if I did have to change position, usually to get away from the heater, I would have to endure the pins and needles as circulation was suddenly restored to my limbs. Leaving a building session was usually painful and awkward as all hell as I would stumble around on legs that were completely numb, then sparkly, then filled with an agonising throb that would force me to freeze on the spot; even the slightest movement would cause a shock to go through my body as I waited for the flow of blood to normalise throughout my legs. These are the things that were going through my head as I was building LEGO with my daughter. Neat, huh? As we moved onto the space ship set (918) I came across a wing piece that had been chewed; this was most likely done by our first dog, Buddy. Buddy was an English Cocker Spaniel, and as I worked to fit this damaged piece into my ship I realised that this LEGO had once again brought me memories of my youth. I was unable to get the wing piece to fit properly; there had been too much damage; but as I looked at my ship I knew that I would always be able to find a particular joy in this busted piece of LEGO.

Construction.
Construction.
6930.
6930.
6970.
6970.
918.
918.
Base of operations.
Base of operations.
Flight check.
Flight check.
The chewed wing.
“Sir. I believe one of the wings has been… well… chewed.”

It didn’t take long at all for Abigail and I to complete all three sets. Funny, I seem to remember it taking longer when I was a kid. Even though it didn’t take long, it was a special moment to share with her, and I want to thank Carmen for helping to create that moment.

A few days ago my daughter and I were building LEGO together. I was, of course, sitting cross-legged. As my wife called from upstairs to let us know that supper was ready, I knew as soon as I started to move that it would be a perilous journey up the stairs.

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Keeping the “Christmas” in Christmas

I had already started this post a couple of times, and each time I ended up getting bogged down with excessive wordage and tangents that trailed off and died slow painful deaths concurrently. I have also blogged about this in the past, but it’s once again on my mind so I’m going to try to keep this short and semi-sweet.

It’s Christmas time, and as it is Christmas time I will be wishing my family, friends, and people I meet, Merry Christmas; because it’s Christmas. I am not a Christian; I am not religious; I don’t believe in gods, messiahs, or poorly engineered censuses within Roman provinces in the ancient Near East. Yet, I wish you a Merry Christmas all the same, because it’s Christmas; and every other PC, accommodating, watered-down term seems, well, lame. I also realise that there are other faith traditions that celebrate this time of year, but other than using something broad like “Happy Holidays,” I will continue on with, Merry Christmas. For me, Christmas is about family and tradition. It’s about memories from the past and new ones in the making. It’s about decorating trees, opening gifts, and sharing meals. It’s about cookies and milk for Santa, and hay under the table and garlic under the table-cloth to ward of evil spirits. Christmas is about singing carols, working out which key to start off in. It’s about that feeling on Christmas morning that I experienced as a child, and now get to experience through the eyes of my own children.

I will be spending Christmas celebrating with my family as we carry on old traditions and create new ones. Others will be spending their Christmas celebrating in their own special way; some will even be celebrating the birth of Jesus. However you wish to celebrate, have yourself a merry little Christmas. I invite my fellow atheists to wish each other Merry Christmas as well. After all, we can wish each other a happy Thursday without getting all bent out of shape over Norse religion, can we not? Of course, the choice is entirely yours; but as for me, I will be keeping the “Christmas” in Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Somthing-or-Other!

The holiday season is once again upon us and so I will take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. That’s right, I said, Merry Christmas; not Happy Holidays; not Joyous Yuletide; not Wondrous Winter Solstice. Merry Christmas.

 “What’s this?” some of you might be asking, “Is he fixing to put the Christ back in Christmas?” No… well, yes… sort of. Let me try to explain.

First off, this will not be a discussion about one religion co-opting the calendar of another. Nor will it delve into the sacred versus secular celebration debate. I don’t feel like taking those on today. Rather, I’d like to keep it simple; I’m focusing on language; labels. What does it mean for an atheist to wish someone, someone like you, a Merry Christmas? I guess a lot of it depends on how you would like to receive it. Some of you might look at it as speaking to your own personal religious experience of this time of year. Others might take offence, seeing it as a way of excluding those of other faiths or, indeed, a non-believer during this time of year. Yet others might be simply confused by what I’m on about. Let me be as clear as I can be.

When I wish you a Merry Christmas, I mean to offer my desire for you to enjoy this time of year in whatever way you choose. Some make a special effort to reconnect with friends and family, others seek solitude in the midst of the hustle and bustle. There are those who simply detest this time of year, and to them I offer my greeting not to mock them, but to extend my hope that they can rise above their ill feelings or at the very least, weather the storm.

“That’s all fine and dandy,” you say, “but why not use Happy Holidays? Why, as a non-believer would you insist on using Merry Christmas which, as you are well aware, is derived from Christ’s mass?” Actually, I do often use Happy Holidays as an encompassing term for both Christmas and New Year’s, but I digress. I say Merry Christmas quite simply because, and here’s where I finally get to my point, that is what the day, and the surround holiday season is called. It’s Christmas. For better or for worse, regardless of past traditions, here and now in our Western culture, it’s called Christmas. Allow me to expand. If I happen to see you on the fifth day of the week, and I say to you, “Happy Friday,” it does not mean in any way that I am advocating for the renewal of worship for the Norse goddess Frigg, for whom the day is named. Again, if we are about to go our separate ways on the eve of a particular long weekend in Spring, I may very well say to you, “Happy Easter!” This does not mean that I am off to celebrate the Anglo-Saxon goddess, Ēostre, and am expecting you to do the same. Rather I am wishing you a pleasant holiday, which, since we are on the topic, is derived from holy day. In short, it’s all a trick of the language by way of etymology.

I may add that I grew up in the Christian tradition, and as such have been immersed in the pageantry of Christmas from a very young age. I guess what I’m trying to say with this point is that, on some level, I appeal to you as a “cultural Christian.”

So once again, I, Seán (which, ironically, is derived from the Hebrew Yehochanan, Yahweh is gracious) wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

… or Happy Christmas, as it were.