She Will Never be a Toys 'R' Us Kid...
Depressing title? Sure. Appropriate for the matter at hand? Of course.
We’ve known of the impending demise of Toys ‘R’ Us since September of last year, and as they were able to tread water through the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, it seemed as if most people assumed they would muscle through and avoid bankruptcy altogether. Last Thursday though, an early morning headline changed everything! Upon hearing the news that the end of an era had finally come, that Toys ‘R’ Us was closing its doors forever, I knew that Lakyn and I needed to get Ella down to our local store as soon as possible…not because of some huge clearance sale, but because this would be Ella’s first and last chance to experience what us 90’s kids had taken for granted for so many years - the mega toy store!
I can still remember the feeling of walking into the original Toys ‘R’ Us location in Charlotte, NC. Situated off of Independence Blvd. in a part of town that is now barley recognizable, the store was a mecca for parents and kids from all over the area looking for the latest and greatest in Barbies, Hot Wheels, and Sega Video game technology (y’all remember Sega right?!). As the automatic doors to the store opened, a large blast of air from overhead fans would immediately greet you! As a kid I never knew what these “air curtains” were for, but I did know that once I made it through, I was walking into a world like no other!
I get nostalgic over Toys ‘R’ Us because I can still remember the smell of the store, the feeling of finding a new toy or video game, and the independence I felt when I got to take my birthday money into the store to pick out whatever I wanted! I can still tell you the layout of that Independence Blvd. store...where the video game aisle was, where the Legos were, and how I had planned my route through the store on the off-chance that I won a spot in the Super Toy Run sponsored by Nickelodeon. I wanted Ella to have those same memories and experiences that I had when I was growing up and with the impending closure of yet another staple of my childhood (should I dedicate another blog to Blockbuster Video?!), Lakyn and I knew we had to capture at least a few moments before it would no longer be possible.
Though the photos tell the story best, Ella Pearl was in absolute heaven. As soon as we walked in the door she started “ooo-ing and ahh-ing” at everything she saw. For a little person who doesn’t know the concept of money, Ella just grabbed onto whatever she wanted and carried it with her around the store! As an avid Trolls fan, she was drawn to everything movie-related and let out a loud, “Poppy” every time she saw her favorite character! In our hour-long journey through the store she had seen more toys than her little brain could handle, tested out a few new chairs, cars, and stuffed animals, and had shown us her displeasure when we wouldn’t let her climb all over the displays...some of which probably hadn’t been cleaned since they were installed.
But at the end of the shopping trip, Ella dropped all of the “toys” she had collected (including a rogue bicycle pedal a package of baby wipes) and chose a board book as her final treasure of the day. I’m sorry if this last part gets a little sappy, but watching my 21-month old daughter perusing the book aisle all by herself, pointing to silly covers, laughing and walking away with one tucked under her arm, really changed my outlook on this whole situation. Maybe getting rid of the big-box toy store and
commercialism that surrounds it is okay for this generation of kids. I wanted so bad for Ella to pick out a cool new toy so we could take it to the register together...but that’s not what she wanted...she wanted a book! Mind you, we’ve bought Ella Pearl PLENTY of toys that clutter her room and our entire house if we’re not careful, but we also read books to her every day before nap time and each night before bed. As a teacher (and the son of a teacher), it will always be important to me to instill a love of reading and imagination in my children and during our trip, Ella showed me we are doing just that! I was so caught up in wanting to re-live a piece of my childhood that I was forgetting my baby will be growing up in an entirely new world, a different world…one with great advantages over my formative years and scary challenges that we will have to adapt to as a family. Toys ‘R’ Us was just a small piece of my childhood; one that pales in comparison to the overall positive morals and values instilled in me by my parents. It didn’t make or break my childhood or give me an advantage in the adult world. In fact, I would have been the exact same person without the mega toy store’s existence. I’m sad to see a little chunk of my childhood disappear forever, but Ella Pearl and all of the other kids growing up right now will have their own things to be excited about and remember fondly. Who knows, Amazon’s Virtual Reality Toy Store could be just around the corner!
Keep scrolling to see a few more shots from Ella's big trip and leave a comment with YOUR favorite memory from Toys 'R' Us! Also, we'd love to see other families document their final trek to the mega-store before they close - so tag us if you take any photos!!