I really wanted this Lego set. It was the summer between 6th and 7th grade. UFOs was the newest theme, it spun, it turned into 4 vehicles, it came with 4 figures, and oh I wanted it so badly. For some reason my dad had taken me to Toys R Us. (I don’t know why, this wasn’t a common destination, perhaps we were waiting for the tires to change at the Costco next door.) But there we were, in the Lego aisle, and my dad struck a deal with me. “Write 10 short stories this summer, and I’ll buy you this Lego set.” Mind you, this was not a $10 small set, not the midrange $35. This was a top of the line, $70 set. This was major. Not only did my dad offer me this deal, he would buy it for me first, trusting that I would deliver later. So I did what any 12 yr old would do… I said yes, without hesitation or thinking of the work. It was the biggest Lego set I had ever gotten from my parents.
Summer ended. I didn’t write 10 stories. I didn’t write 5, or 3. I think… maybe I wrote 1, and a half. Now to be honest, I don’t really remember how my father reacted. At that age, my dad did have a short temper, so maybe he punished me. Maybe he let it go. Did he forget? I’m not sure. But I never did. To this day, I still feel like I short changed my dad on a very generous agreement.
I still wonder why my dad made that deal with me, and why specifically, for writing short stories. It’s not like I had expressed a knack for it. I didn’t have some extracurricular agenda (if anything he cared the least about all the piano, violin, kumon lessons I was doing). And furthermore, my dad never really expressed any creative goals of his own, why push it on me? I think about other strange things he pushed me to do… this one is unique… He always encouraged me to talk really fast. He was impressed when he saw other people able to just talk and tell stories very quickly, like the Micro Machines Guy. He said it was a skill to be able to think that fast. He was never that hard on me about grades, or girls, but don’t get me wrong, I had my fair share of sore butts and scary moments, but looking back, and even now, I think it all actually came from a place of feeling left out. And that’s where it all make sense.
My dad is not a social guy. He’s quiet, keeps to himself, and apparently has been this way for much of his life. He’s tried to have friends, but always felt out of place, or uncomfortable, and as a reaction, he would avoid people more. And then along comes me, a son, an extension of him. And with me he encourages all the social aspects he lacks, or always felt too afraid to expose. Have an imagination, have a quick wit and sharp tongue, play tennis and basketball like the people on tv, …include me in your life. My dad was trying to create the friend he always wanted. The cool kid, the fun guy, a friend he knew he couldn’t lose, so long as the friend didn’t reject him.
And that is the struggle I’ve had with my father in the most recent years. A man with essentially no friends outside of family, and the one friend he spent so much of his life to create, the one he spent $70 on a Lego set for, far away and often out of reach. He’s not always easy to get along with, but I know it’s because he wants me as a friend.
For the last 7 years now, I’ve been “professionally” writing stories. It took 17 years, but I feel like I’ve more than returned my end of the deal. And now, with our first real movie days away from principal photography, I think about how ironic it is that one of the biggest things he pushed me to do, is what keeps me too busy to call. The friend he was trying to create can’t find the time. But I know he understands, and I know from a distance he’s proud. He checks Wong Fu’s view counts, he reads comments and asks me about them. He’s the one that told us we reached 1 million subscribers! I wonder if he ever thought those short stories he wanted me to write would turn into this.
We start shooting our movie on Thursday. Probably the biggest leap WF has taken as a company since we graduated. I hope my dad knows I’m still thinking about that Lego set, and that I feel bad about that summer. This should make up for it, right? But maybe that’s not even the point, holding up my end of the deal. It’s just about being a good friend, the one he always wanted. As children we’re always talking about trying to be better sons and daughters… but at this age, maybe we should just be better friends.
Sometimes I forget about this video… A short story I actually got to include my dad in. Now gimme another Lego set!