I have been prattling on about Toys R Us for more than a decade. The fact that this business has been the focus of so very many of my blog posts over the years suggests that I may have some mild fixation on the place. Not in a Bruce Springsteen kind of way, but rather in a Cheap Trick kind of way. Still, since both of them are Hall of Fame material, it's probably worth noting.
Toy stores have been a happy place for me as long as I can remember. This doesn't come as any kind of real surprise. People who don't enjoy toy stores? I don't want to meet them. Well, maybe I do. If they like Bruce Springsteen and Cheap Trick. And since toy stores are all but extinct, this probably is not the best basis for my personal relationships.
Toys R Us was a place that I recognize as one of those big box discount barns that started closing up the little toy stores because it was all about volume, volume, volume. The mom and pop shops that didn't have to worry about slashing prices or maintaining a clearance aisle. They were small places with crowded aisles and lots of things that didn't seem like they belonged in a toy store, but still there were treasures to be found. For those who looked.
Toys R Us crushed those little places, and when I became a dad, there was a place for my son and I to go together. To wander and dream about what might be. I knew this because I had been there before he was born. Years before. I could tell you that I was there in anticipation of impending fatherhood, but that would not be the case. I was shopping for me. I wasn't always buying, but I wasn't above bringing home a new plaything because as a grownup, I could rationalize a fifteen to twenty dollar purchase because everyone deserves a new toy now and then. I brought home my Sega Genesis from there. I played the heck out of those games. Right up until the birth of my son. Then I put away the video games and started putting together the tractors and trikes and Hot Wheels garages that became the firmament upon which my son's play began.
And all those Legos. On our trips to Toys R Us, we saved that aisle for last. Need it. Got it. Need it, need it. Got it. Somewhere in there Amazon started selling toys and my son figured out computers upon which he could order his own Legos. And play computer games. That he cold download without leaving the house.
One of the last times I was in that store, it was with my younger brother. Two big boys looking at rack after rack of things we really didn't need. Until we turned the corner into the Lego aisle. I spotted it. A Lego Yellow Submarine. I called my younger brother over. We examined. We coveted. We checked the price. It went back on the shelf. My brother and I left Toys R Us empty handed. A few weeks later, around my birthday, a package arrived. It was the Yellow Submarine. From Amazon.
Toys R Us was closed.