Very little is soft about Legos. A series of hard lines with sharp edges that press into my hand as I hold each piece, with a series of rhythmic circles that contour the polished walls of the toys. There are bright, bold colors with a hundred different shapes—and still there are patterns, uniformity, and rigidity.
It’s hard to feel the hard edges and boundaries of the piece without also thinking about the ways these pieces leave impressions on my skin and reminding me of the pain of stepping on a Lego that was left on the floor. These pieces seem incredibly mobile, sliding with their smooth edges across surfaces. How much friction could be generated from these smooth sides?
And yet, digging my hand in a large group of these Legos recalls memories of childish happiness. All their hardness seems soaked up in the collective and my hands sink without issue or pain into the mix. I remember reaching into large tubs of Legos with my friends that were nearly as large as I was and shoveling out fists full of the tiny colorful objects.
Almost similarly, as these toys spilled onto the table, I felt my eyes flickering over the mass of these rapidly, trying to find associative logics. I felt these pieces belonged together, but found myself getting frustrated, not seeing how. It was fitful starts, click, snapping pieces together, click, and pulling them apart, click; haphazard groupings and regroupings by shape, color, my intent. There were so many visible potential positions for each that would entirely guide my next moves, and then the next, and the next.
Click. I couldn’t help but smile at the satisfying snap of two pieces being joined, the object seeming to no longer belong to my hand but to the other nested piece. The tension as I struggled to pull two pieces apart was familiar and frustrating. The amount of force taking more than I expected and felt my arms engaged in the act more than I thought was necessary.
So many childhood memories were inseparable from this composing. Holding one piece in my hand, I remembered imagined worlds I’d built with my friends. How I used the different pieces sparked other constructions and compositions to come to mind. If I encountered a limitation, I remembered encountering it before.