Maybe it was all some sort of cosmic coincidence, but last Friday when Wal-Mart announced that it was no longer going to be sharing its profits with its employees, and all the kids in Oakland had the day off school, a newly refurbished Toys R Us opened its doors just across the tracks in Emeryville. It used to be a Toys R Us. It used to be "our" Toys R Us. It was one of the places where I felt at home when I moved out here from Colorado. I bought my wife and I matching Nerf dart guns there that became our go-to present for newlyweds foolish enough not to register at a place we could afford.
The Wal-Mart thing is easy enough to understand. They're pretty stingy anyway, and it is my son's lasting conviction that they were the ones who originally came between him and his beloved toy store, the ones that turned it overnight into a Babies R Us. It wasn't any kind of a place for a boy over the age of three to be found unless dragged there by his parents on a mission to buy some plastic shield to protect him or the rest of us from the potential spewings of a child much younger than him. It was our Toys R Us too. Many dad and lad afternoons had been spent there, wandering the aisles with no particular purchasing intent. Just miles and miles of toys, and smiles.
And on that serendipitous Friday night, all that magic came rushing back. We had on our list of things to do: pick up baby shower present. That got us to the parking lot, and then, once inside those sliding doors we found shelves of toys stacked to the ceiling. Action figures and video games. Legos and skateboards. Sure, the left side was still all cuddly and smelled faintly of talcum, but once you crossed that center divide, there was a world of toys once again. This was where our good friend passed our family's audition by showing us that she could hang with the Cavens at Toys R Us. She spoke wistfully of her Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine, and joined us in a fast-paced critique of a wide selection of board games. We knew we had a keeper.
There was too much mojo on that spot to let it live out its days as a place to stop by when you need a refill for the Diaper Genie. This new hybrid will take some getting used to, but for now it's a relief to know where I can start shopping for my Tron: Legacy Light Cycle.