Mr. Gregorific kind of, sort of, “likes” LEGOS. He collects them and stores them in pristine condition; he builds sets with the kids; he pieces together retired sets brick by brick; and he sells them on ebay. Much of the time he is able to buy low and sell high and in that way pay for his *ahem* hobby. Any LEGO store opening tantalizes him because there are free gifts, bonus buys, and special, exclusive, promotional sets.
Somehow, he convinced us all to go to Connecticut with him, mostly by calling it a quest. Who can resist being a part of a quest? No Gregor can.
In the Gregor car, the passenger parent is always The Enforcer, and the driving parent is The One Who Shall Be Obeyed. (And thoroughly spoiled.) I was passenger on this trip. I had a good book, and a good back up book. All was well.
Until...driving parent got twitchy.
As each state ticked by, I noticed Mr. Gregorific checking his watch more and more. He began squirming in his seat, driving faster and faster, and resisting our famously frequent pit stops. Something was definitely changing. Every mile we got closer to the store, the deeper Mr. Gregorific’s LEGO love took root, until I suspect it dominated everything else.
Once we crossed into Connecticut, our destination state, Mr. Gregorific was like a runner in the final leg of a race: sweaty, nerves frayed, eyes only on the finish line.
Suddenly, he panted out, “I’m thirsty.”
In fact, he was looking parched, was totally speeding, and had begun to mumble worries about not making it in time to receive the free mini-store sets, given to the first 300 customers.
As a good passenger parent, I reacted quickly to his dire circumstances.
I hollered back to the kiddos: Driver needs hydration!
Gregor 3 relayed the plea: Water! Water for the driver!
Gregor 4 replied in desperation: Can’t reach water!
I reassured him: Hang in there. It’s going to be okay.
Mr. Gregorific: Makes exaggerated dry throat, choking noises. (Much like a man stranded in the desert.)
Gregor 3: Can I unbuckle? Is this an emergency?
Mr. and Mrs. Gregorific (AKA Gregor 1 and 2) in unison: No!
Gregor 4: If I could just…
Mr. Gregorific: Attach an extender brick?
And that is when I began to have my doubts about Mr. Gregorific’s love of LEGOS. Perhaps the obsession had gone too far.
I finally spoke: You know she’s not a LEGO figurine, right? *more silence*
Mr. Gregorific: “Of course, I was joking…” (weak laughter) “Maybe I’ll just drink this.” (Picks up half-full bottle of COKE that was in the cup holder all along.)
I blasted the car with a primo skeptical look. Alas, it went wasted, because Mr. Gregorific had handed a LEGO catalog to the back seat, grandly informing them that he would buy any set they wanted when we arrived.
We reach our destination!
Mr. Gregorific tries to pick up eight and ten year old Gregorific crew members to get them out of the car. Much like you would move small plastic toy bodies around. His claim? He forgot how old they were, “in the excitement.”
We sprinted into the Connecticut mall, hoping to be among the first 300. There was already a long line! In the line, there was a marked lack of women and girls. The majority of customers were men wearing jeans and worn t-shirts emblazoned with LEGO humor. It is unclear to me if the t-shirts were intentionally ironic or not, but if you have a quipy LEGO t-shirt, I guess this is the place to wear it. (Mr. Gregorific was wearing his.) Also in line were a good amount of pre-teen boys. You could taste the excitement in the air, a distinct flavor of fresh plastic and single-minded geekiness.
Mr. Gregorific arranged our placement in the long line: adult, kid, adult pattern. He would not let us rearrange, exclaiming, “This is the optimal configuration!”
In the store, it was chaos. I froze like a non-Lego loving deer in headlights. Mr. Gregorific loaded my arms with boxes, led me to the line, handed me a credit card, and spun me to face the register. Then he did the same with the entire gregorific crew, down to our eight year old, who had to make her own purchase in order to receive the maximum amount of freebies.
It took a while to place all the bags in the car. Mr. Gregorific wanted to set the bags in so that they fit neatly like puzzle pieces. Or like…
We were starving when we finally arrived at our hotel. Spending ridiculous amounts of money on plastic bricks will do that to you. Mr. Gregorific gave us some LEGO sets “to tide us over” and then he went back to the mall to purchase more. Believe it.
In the hotel room, we looked at each other and then at the LEGO sets.
Does he know we can’t eat these? I asked the room at large. No answer. Odd.
Then I see that each Gregor kidlet was already busy unpacking a LEGO set. Tide them over, indeed. They began to assemble marvels like a LEGO Ice Cream Truck that turns into a jet. Gregor blood runs thick.
I shrugged and called room service, so glad to have a good book.
The next day was a similar design. He positioned us in line in the same formation, we fought the same zealous crowds, and we made even more purchases for Mr. Gregorific.
Then, when the serious business was done (quest = fulfilled), we went to the mall’s huge, open area, where a giant, life-sized HULK was being constructed. The Legorific fans were using green Lego bricks to make bigger green Lego bricks to make…you get the picture.
Brick after brick was put together. The LEGO crowd had a unique kind of focus. Everyone had their heads bent, very little conversation was transpiring. Occasionally someone would look up with an intent expression and very glazed eyes. I swear they had no idea where they were, only that they would keep snapping brick after brick together, working on a goal, anticipating the satisfaction of the final product, even if it was a giant, green monster in the middle of a mall.
A green monster that would be broken down and transported to the next store opening mere hours after completion. It was only me who saw it that way. This was a dream, a shared Lego project, a massive undertaking, something they would always remember.
I will admit, there was a magic in the air while these strangers clamored toward the same goal. Enjoying a colossal undertaking like putting together a life-sized Hulk seems intrinsic to the hobby. I have noticed this through the years as Mr. Gregorific buys and assembles bigger and bigger LEGO sets, the last one being the third largest available, The London Bridge with 4000 pieces. He has his eyes set on the Taj Mahal, and then the Death Star. His ranking system seems to be determined by number of pieces.
The Hulk was surreal. He grew out of nothing and ended up towering over the little LEGO lovers, making them look like the toys.
Which brings me back to the niggling suspicion I had for the whole trip. When Mr. Gregorific sets off on a LEGO journey, he begins to see everything LEGO. I suspect my head begins to look yellow and square-ish in his eyes. I sense he wants to snap us into position and trust we will stay there.
On our drive home, I wondered if he was seeing the highway as a series of interlocking gray bricks. Did he consider the pit stops and snack breaks to be steps in the instructions for this set? Was this whole adventure in a box with a label and total number of pieces? Was the age range Gregor 1 to Gregor 4? What was the suggested assembly time? Two days, seven hours?
The farther away from the Grand Opening we got, the more we returned to our normal, non-plastic selves. The fire in the big and little Gregor eyes dimmed. Talk turned to things non-LEGO, such as the weather, our dog, and *gasp* other toys. The girls unearthed the paper dolls we had packed and we even switched the CD.
Wait for it…to the Frozen soundtrack.
If we all see the world through our own lenses, I’m glad Mr. Gregorific’s are yellow-hued and come with a sense of fun. And I’m lucky he is fine with mine being letters and words and paragraphs, always looping around and returning to the story of our life together.