As I’m typing this post (about a week before it went live), it’s on the eve of the closing of what I’ve always considered my little slice of Heaven on Earth, Toys ‘R’ Us. I have a comic I plan to post about this sad topic, assembled from photos I took on my final visit to my childhood store. So I want to save most of my thoughts for that page, which I’ll post once “All Hail the Thunderbird” concludes. But for now I want to state that the end of Toys ‘R’ Us (at least in the U.S.) truly feels like the end of childhood for me. I’m certainly no kid but, like Ronald, I kind of exist like one in certain ways. I hold a job, I pay taxes, I manage rent and car payments, and I actually found a woman to marry me, sure. But I also absolutely still love toys, cartoons and too often live in the nostalgic memories of a time long faded. (I don’t have any children, which might help explain this.) I don’t feel like I ever put down the things of childhood; I just carried them all along with me as I grew older and gathered up additional adult interests and trappings along the way.
For me, Toys ‘R’ Us wasn’t just a store that I stepped into once every several years, hesitantly curious, donning a protective suit of ironic detachment, or trying to grab onto a glimmer of the past like as it buzzed by me like a firefly. Outside of a short break in my later childhood and early teens, I visited Toys ‘R’ Us on a pretty regular basis, seeking out the latest Transformers, Star Wars figures and LEGO sets. It’s true that Toys ‘R’ Us lost a lot of its magic as time went on, and I don’t just mean because we became adults. The shelves really were stacked high with toys at one time, and to a kid it was a mad, magical warehouse of playtime joy. As the years passed, the shelves were frequently more vacant as toy manufacturers and retailers slashed supply and orders. But Toys ‘R’ Us was still a GIANT, dedicated toy store, and I always felt that rush of excitement as I stepped through its big, bright entryway, never knowing what I would find, sometimes by myself, sometimes on a toy hunt with friends, sometimes with my bemused girlfriend/wife. The Toys ‘R’ Us experience is intertwined throughout my whole life, touching what are pretty much always good memories. The fact that its doors are about to shut for good, its soul already faded, has a profound effect on me that goes beyond talk of Amazon or bad financial management or whatever other inevitable realities caused this to happen. Deep down, I’ll probably never grow up. I’ll always be a Toys ‘R’ Us kid, long after it has disappeared into legend like Avalon. Toys ‘R’ Us, for me, will always represent limitless imagination and possibility. You don’t need concrete walls to contain that.
(Also, oops, I might have just written some of that planned comic here. lol)