For many years, my son and I would take just about any opportunity to wander through a toy store together. Most of the time our point of non-purchase was Toys R Us. Those great big warehouses with aisle after aisle of neatly stacked boxes full of potential fun were a source of hours of fun and giddy anticipation. Sometimes we took these sojourns with others. My wife. Family. Friends. To be honest, I wandered those brightly lit aisles before my son was born. I like toy stores, and once my son came along, I had a more legitimate and readily apparent excuse for being in a toy store.
It reminded me of the stories my mother used to tell me about the Sears and Roebuck catalog. The Wish Book, she and countless others, called it. I got some of that, because my family was lucky enough to have that great big phonebook of fun delivered to us once a year, just before Christmastime. My brothers and I would flip past the men's and women's wear, the automotive and hardware, major and small appliances, until we landed in the toy section. Folding back the pages was my entree into what would eventually become my Amazon Wish List. It was the basis of my letters to Santa, and eventually the none-too-subtle hints that I would give my parents. As amazingly generous and patient as my parents were, there were always pages and pages of unrequited wants. Always something more. Those were the things that dreams were made of.
That's what my son and I were looking for in those trips to Toys R Us: Dreams. In spite of our best efforts, we were never able to drag home enough Hot Wheels or Legos to fill the void. That was why we could walk past all the displays and shelves. We could imagine what it would be like to have all those action figures, trains, cars, and assorted molded bits of plastic. In our minds, the price was right.
A few years back, we switched our parking lots, and started to hang out under the fluorescent lights of Best Buy. Speakers, TVs, computer bits and pieces, they were all priced a notch or two higher than the merchandise at the toy store, in spite of the establishment's name. But we don't go there to buy, most of the time. We go to look. And to dream. And to imagine. Do I miss the days when our dreams were Hot Wheels and Legos? Sure I do. And so does he. That's fine. We still have our dreams.