Everyone with a childhood worth bragging about, at some point, had a container of random Lego pieces somewhere in their bedroom. Today, I’m cracking into mine and exploring some of my favorite discoveries.
While some may have had theirs in a Rubbermaid container, a cardboard box, or a reused box of a larger Lego play set, mine lived in a Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles suitcase.
This suitcase lived many lifetimes and I’ve held onto it because it’s not only aesthetically pleasing, holding a prominent place in my home office, but it also has memories tied to it that stretch far beyond the reaches of an assorted Lego piece receptacle.
Back in my childhood days, sleepovers were a big deal. I’m a control freak, so I always preferred my friends to sleep over my house, but there were a few close friends and a cousin whose houses I felt comfortable enough to sleep over without calling my Dad in the middle of the night to come pick me up.
We would stay up late at night watching Children of the Corn movies, eating Doritos Pizza Hut Pizza Cravers, slurping Mountain Dew, and playing Super Metroid. Each time I visited these houses, I would lug along my Ninja Turtle suitcase full of pajama pants, extra socks, extra undies, and maybe a Super Nintendo controller, VHS tape, and snack or two. It was my handy dandy sleepover kit and it served me well throughout my childhood.
However, when my clothes and accessories got too big to fit into this tinier-than-average suitcase, I retired it in favor of a duffel bag emblazoned with the somewhat racially insensitive logo of a Native American chieftain from my summer camp. It is at this time that the suitcase was relegated to live out the remainder of its days as a Lego storage container.
It’s been many years since I opened this suitcase and gazed at its myriad of contents, but I felt the need to take a trip down memory lane and pick out some key pieces that defined what it meant to have a childhood imagination.
As you can see from this group shot, as is the case with most kids’ assorted Lego containers, the pieces had no discernible theme. They were arranged with bits and pieces from many different play sets, akin to a Frankenstein monster or a large ball of every colored Play Doh you owned mashed together.
This shot alone contains futuristic pieces like computer panels and rocket packs, medieval swords/dragons/wizard hats, jungle monkeys, undersea creatures, pirates, skeletons, treasure chests, castles, and they’re all existing on a sand-colored platform from Fort Legoredo.
The first piece that sticks out to me is a black dragon with half a face. Its rider has a computer for a head, holding a video camera with a whip sticking out of it. He has no legs. For whatever reason, a common theme of my Lego playtime was replacing the heads of Lego pieces with inanimate objects and removing their lower torso and legs. I was a strange child.
This next group shot contains a lot of images to unpack. You have 4 water creatures in the foreground of the frame, consisting of a shark, a manta ray, a sword fish, and an alligator.
The one gripe I would have about these creatures is that only the alligator has Lego pegs on his back. If you’re going to add any kind of animal to a Lego play set, it should ALWAYS have at least 2 pegs on its back. How else are you going to make your little Lego men or computer-faced robo creeps ride on its back like a mighty steed?
Aside from the sea creatures, there’s also a monkey hanging on for dear life to a ladder held by a gas station attendant with a barrel for a head. They are flanked by an island native with a deep sea scuba diver’s head holding a flag with a plant growing out of his scalp. I feel like this would make for a great comic book.
Next to them is a computer-faced robot with one gloved hand riding an alligator. He’s obviously the brains of the operation. The other side has a college professor with a scuba helmet driving a hover rocket boat that looks vaguely like a race car.
Moving on, we see a medieval castle knight holding a harpoon gun with a propeller blade on it sitting on an inflatable yellow life raft. In my head, he uses the propeller harpoon to fly, much like the Penguin and his umbrella. When he’s about to run out of juice, he lands softly in the inflatable raft and recharges his flying mechanism via clean, renewable, solar energy.
Behind him are his 3 henchmen. There’s a neon hook-handed pirate with a treasure chest for a face. Next to him is another medieval knight riding a broken, single-handed motorcycle with a large cannon attached directly to his scalp. The far left is another neon hook-handed pirate, but this time with a skeleton head and wizard hat. He’s holding a replica of the masamune from Chrono Trigger in his hook hang and swigging some purple drank in the other. This is a gang of bad ass medieval, steampunk pirate wizards that you DON’T want to fuck with. They could easily feel at home in the Masters of the Universe cartoon as some of Skeletor’s closest advisers.
The interesting thing about the cannon headed guy riding the broken motorcycle is, oddly enough, the motorcycle itself. This motorcycle was part of a police set and it was far and away my favorite Lego accessory. Every Lego character I treasured most would have his or her shot at riding it. I would perform complex tricks in the air, have them riding on the mantle above our fireplace, doing flips, flinging it off Hot Wheels ramps, and just generally loving every fucking second I could get my hands on it. Why then is it missing both wheels a right handlebar? It’s because we always destroy the things we love most. Take that as a life lesson.
Additionally, I couldn’t mention my favorite Lego accessory without mentioning my favorite Lego head. The skeleton face was the head I would use for only my favorite Lego bodies. It marked the Lego character I cared for most. His hat would often change between the wizard had, the deep sea helmet, the pirate hat, and the top hat, but his face always remained the same. It reminded me so much of those Trick or Treat pails that McDonald’s used to give out in the 80s. It’s a dead ringer for the skull pail. Here, he’s living atop a pirate body with a neon hook hand and driving a red race car. I felt the wizard hat was fitting since he’s brandishing a sword. I imagine him as a mix between Gandalf, Mario Andretti, Dr. Piranoid from Street Sharks, and Zelda’s own Stalfos.
The last thing I wanted to mention is that in the sleeve of the suitcase, I also found a bunch of instructions for some of the Lego sets, invitations to the Lego club in various languages, and sticker decals for some of the sets. The kids in these photos look to be having as much fun and elation as I’m having going through this suitcase. Thanks for reading.