"Okay Erin, remember you can only have one thing when we go in here." "Okay Daddy. I remember."
It was a moment filled with promise. The conversation finished, we'd walk hand in hand through the door and in to the land of possibilities. Toys R Us.
My ever patient father would wait while I mulled over toys from every section to decide which was the chosen one, many times deciding on the the first one that caught my eye after spending an hour making sure there was nothing better out there (sorry, Dad).
It was a place to explore, experience and discover. This place where they promised a kid could just be a kid, no matter what else was going on in their lives.
It's easy to play the blame game here: Corporate mismanaged it and didn't adapt to fit a changing marketplace and changing families. Kids today would rather watch kids play with toys on YouTube than to play with them. They're always glued to a screen. Millennial parents don't have the same type of disposable income our parents had and we can't afford toys the way they used to so we have to shop elsewhere. Even if we find a culprit to lay the blame on, it doesn't change the fact that it's the end of an era and this makes me sadder than any other store closing I've seen (even Marshall Field's, and I was really ticked about that one).
So many different time periods in my life have memories connected to Toys R US. The most obvious are those moments as a child discovering everything from Barbies to rock tumbling kits, but when I think about it, there's so much more.
When I had my first job as a babysitter/nanny and I would take the little boy that had come to feel like family instead of a job and spend the little money I was making on finding him a toy. He was so different from me. He was only 3 or so and I'd give him the one toy speech before we went in, but then he would decisively choose the first toy he fell in love with. I'd take him through the rest of the store to try out other toys and see all of the possibilities, but he would be so sure.
The out of stock 4 in 1 crib I obsessed over for months. I'd call customer service on the day it was supposed to arrive in stock and be told that it hadn't come from the manufacturer. Eventually they explained that stores share warehouses and I could try and find a store with a different warehouse from my local store and they might have one, I found it 3 hours away in the town I was born in. It was the only one they had. My Grandpa lent me the down payment and my Aunt took it to the store and ordered it for me. It felt kind of serendipitous that the bed I was buying my baby to last from a crib to her teenage years was a family effort from the city I started my life in.
The first time I went to Toys R Us to find a toy for my daughter, I wasn't making a lot of money (a recurring theme in my life) but it was time for her to have toys. She was just big enough to start playing. It was a payday Friday and I went after work, going up and down the infant and toddler aisles filled with primary colors and basic shapes looking at suggested ages and developmental features, all while longing for the day when we'd be on the other side of the store picking out dolls. I settled on stacking rings and a shape sorter. She loved them.
The day I decided to take my baby to pick out her first dress up clothes. Imagine my chagrin when she wasn't in to it. I had waited 4 years to play dress up with my baby and all she wanted was pretend food. It went from, "You can have one thing," to " You can have anything at all on this wall if you'll play dress up with Mommy." I still remember the woman in the aisle behind us laughing at the conversation as I tried to entice her in to giving it a try. It worked by the way, she adores dress up now.
The many times I sat on the floor in the aisles picking through the packages of Shopkins or whatever other thing spread around us, looking for the package that was exactly the one she wanted while she told me about whatever was occupying her mind.