05 August 2017

Making an AFOL of Myself

Just a bit after my first introduction to basic LEGO bricks in 1984, I was given the 6682 Cement Mixer, a Town theme set from the same year.  It included my first LEGO™ minifigure, a happy little guy with a red hardhat and black overalls.  And in the following years he poured many loads of 1x1 light gray tiles out of his truck, as well as driving, operating, or exploring all of my other creations.

LEGO has an amazing ability to inspire a craving for more LEGO, to use more parts to build something new, something bigger, or something more challenging.  Like most any kid surrounded by retail marketing, I wanted more.  My parents were generous and I got a few more small sets.  My brothers were generous and let me use their LEGO as they began to use it less.  But I wanted the LEGO Train.  Now I know there have been many Lego trains over the years, but at the time there was only one.  It cost far more than any Christmas or birthday present I ever received, (and as I understand now, cost more than my parents could afford) but I still asked for it every year.
LEGO 7722 Battery Train Set image on BrickLink.com

I did not get the LEGO Train. So I enjoyed the LEGO I did have, and played with it even more.  As a testament to how extensively my cement mixer driver was played with, his hip joints are completely worn, and he can barely stand unsupported.

But I have quite a bit more LEGO now, so I can help with that.

Like the mixer driver, I have also aged.  Fortunately I can still stand unassisted.  But like most children who grew up playing with LEGO, I eventually stopped.  A while after getting my own Technic Set as a teenager (8856 Whirlwind Rescue), I got busy with high school.  Then my LEGO got boxed and I moved off to college and started an engineering career.  I spent my spare time watching the X-Files or playing tabletop games like Settlers of Catan with friends from my campus church.

When people rediscover their love for LEGO and ultimately take it to a new level, they become an AFOL, an Adult Fan Of LEGO.  They become part of a new community of other grown-ups like them who share that love for LEGO.  (Also, they apparently share a love for acronyms, but more on that another time.)  After looking back fondly on their years of being a teenager or kid who loved LEGO (TFOL or KFOL), they realize there’s no good reason they can’t love LEGO again, and discover new reasons to love it.

Keychain from the Slade Child Foundation at BrickFair Virginia 2017

That time in between being KFOL or TFOL and becoming an AFOL, is what AFOLs like to call the Dark Ages.  The term is a bit overly dramatic, but I like it.  I think most historians would agree that the best thing about the Dark Ages is that they’re over.  They were an interesting time, filled with lots of interesting stories, but I think the best stories are about how we pull ourselves out of Dark Ages, leave them behind, and continue towards better things.

(In my mid-30's, I finally bought a LEGO train for myself.  The newer, IR remote-controlled 60052 Cargo Train.)

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