Life is an infinite jigsaw puzzle consisting of countless pieces and possible configurations, just waiting to be put together in the way we want. At least, that’s how I’ve always seen it.
Growing up a girl in the 90s meant a toy box full of dolls, dress-up clothes, and tea sets. I liked these but became easily bored, as they always came with specific parameters and stories of their own. Those courses of play were too predetermined for a little daydreamer. My baby buggy was always caked in mud because I thought the most practical use for it would be to turn it into a wagon for my backyard historical reenactment of the Oregon Trail computer game.
The discovery of building toys with no real rules, meant to create AND play with, was rather revolutionary. These gave me a way to make any story. Every story. New stories, over and over again. Once you realize you can make anything you want out of a few pieces of colored plastic, the idea of creation becomes intoxicating, attainable, endless. Scenes and machines made of bricks, wheels, gears, and levers. After learning to build something of my own, I became enamored with figuring everything else out.
My mother would tell you that when I was small, I was always busy taking things apart or making something. This was because objects made sense to me and people did not. Social situations were (and still are) nearly impossible for me to navigate with ease. I find there is comfort and order in the world of inanimate things, and unlike humans, there is a clear path to understanding them. I am most myself when I am alone, tinkering away at one of my many projects.
In childhood, I was a skilled thief of trinkets. I would constantly pickpocket and pilfer what I viewed as treasure from unsuspecting adults around me. Forgotten and insignificant items that simply looked interesting became my primary area of study. Swiped from cabinets, toolboxes, and dusty garages. Fly fishing hooks, multi-layered coins, interesting glass bottles, books with unique bindings, toy ships, broken radios, fountain pens, nutcrackers, and pocket knives. Anything with a mechanism that latched, sprung, hinged, or snapped would go in my pocket when no one was looking. Once the item’s mysteries were unraveled and locked away in my mental filing system, I would quietly return it, although it was usually not missed in the first place.
Building with LEGO, along with my subsequent (and constant) fiddling with stolen objects, is how I learned to dissect and reconstruct a process or thing. I’d examine my quarry in the clandestine quiet of my childhood hiding places. Turning it over in my hands, mentally deconstructing the layers and pieces. Deciding how it came to exist or function. Drawing out blueprints and making replicas. From these secret studies, I gained the ability to view all objects as parts that comprise a whole. It was like discovering I had x- ray vision. When I found that what I swiped had been broken, I began to invent, repair, and improve. It was a joy to fix it in secret and then surreptitiously replace it as if I were a benevolent household ghost.