One of the greatest days of my life passed unremarked by everyone else in the world. But I shall never forget January 5, 2004.
It was the day after Malcolm turned 7. At his party, his friend Ryan had given him a Toys R Us gift card, and off we drove to the store to redeem it.
My heart sank as we parked in the grungy, wind-swept lot. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here. Inside these gigantic walls, I had spent some of the most boring hours of my life. First Ian, then Hugh, then Malcolm had all gone through their Toys R Us years, laboring to pick out Thomas the Tank Engine toys, then advancing to Legos, K’Nex, Bionicals. Over the years, we had personally witnessed the evolution of packaging, from cardboard boxes to plastic-encased tubing.
And over those years, while the boys deliberated over hundreds of Lego choices, my eyes glazed over and I cast about desperately for something that would entertain ME, the driver, the keeper of the wallet. I had tried to amuse myself by entering the Forbidden Zone, the Pink-and-Purple Barbie aisle, but was quickly repulsed by what lay within. So many sexist, cheap plastic dolls and outfits to waste money on. Appalled, I scurried out quickly – and never made that mistake again.
As in any store, my favorite part would have been the book section, but as I recall, Toys R Us has a flimsy selection, and every story is Disney or TV-tied. As if those are books. They’re ads for toys, on bound-together pages. Appalling.
So on this fateful day in 2004, we entered the once-hallowed halls, walked past the wall of nipples (there’s just TOO MUCH of everything in that warehouse-sized space), and started heading for the toy area. Malcolm said “Wait, Mom, let’s go over there.” He headed over to electronics. I wondered what he could possibly find for $25 in that section – but lo, he discovered a shiny red radio, and that is what he wanted.
And that was the last time I entered Toys R Us. My kids had aged out of it. They were done. They were into other things. Music! Sports! Art! We started going to small family-owned stores in surrounding towns to buy items in these areas. And it was a joy.
My friends with younger kids have listened, rapt and wistful, as I have told them this tale. They cannot imagine that there will come a glorious day when they, too, will graduate from Toys R Us. But that day will indeed come.
I am here to give them all hope.