“Don’t touch my LEGOs!” I want to tell you my kid yelled that, but it was me. I’m the stingy LEGO builder. I’m not sorry. My husband got me Stranger Things LEGOs for my birthday and after a decade of watching my kids play with toys, I decided it was my turn. My toys. I played with my toys so hard and now I have a LEGO Upside Down and Joyce Byers’ blinking Christmas lights strung about my LEGO house.
I carefully opened each bag of LEGO bricks, sorting through the pieces and reading the directions. I grabbed my cookbook stand from the kitchen to prop up the directions because my fortysomething eyes had a hard time with the glare off the glossy pages. And yet I persisted.
Each new bag contained an exciting surprise, and I squealed when I snapped together mini Joyce and mini Hopper. I found Eleven in—wait for it—bag Eleven. Those LEGO engineers are magicians. I put mini Will and mini Demogorgon in the Upside Down and I gave Mike, Lucas, and Dustin their flashlights and walkie talkies.
I loved the LEGOs like I love the show. Stranger Things is set in my 1980s childhood, a time when we jumped on dirt bikes and headed into the neighborhood with friends. We built forts and roamed the woods and called each other on our corded phones. Unlike the kids from Stranger Things, I wasn’t allowed to play Dungeons and Dragons because my parents’ Christian magazine told them it was demonic. Nobody tell the magazine people that I’m playing with a Demogorgon minifigure, mkay?
Stranger Things makes me feel good because it takes me back to a time when my whole job was playing. I mean, that, plus long division and diagramming sentences. But mostly playing. My LEGO time connected me back to the feelings of childhood fun and I desperately need that.
I’m a tired, cynical mom rediscovering how to play. It’s been a journey over the last couple of years. For so long I focused on teaching the kids how to play. How to treat their friends. How to cultivate their imagination. How to shake hands and say, “Good game,” after a round of Rummikub. How to freaking clean up after themselves, because no one wants to step on a LEGO, a fate worse than death.
But now my kids are old, the lessons have changed, and if I’m to survive the Teenage Wasteland, I have to play. Play with my friends, play with my LEGOs, read fun books. I have regular movie dates with my friends, breakfast dates with my husband, and several times a week I bring a book to the bathtub and read until I’m pruny.