All good things…

We all have to get used to things changing, our jobs, the kids, ourselves. It does not necessarily get easier and some things have more profound effects than you’d expect.

The Toys R Us in the next town recently closed. Apparently Christmas didn’t go so well. It seems as early as the week after, people were out on the streets holding signs advertising 10-50% off everything. A few weeks later, 50-70% off. None of the signs said anything about closing, but the hints were there. This past weekend, we drove by and they were gone. Windows empty, letters gone from the buildings, dumpsters out back overflowing with fixtures.

To be clear, it was horrible store. Always dirty, dark to the point where you had a hard time seeing product on the shelves in some aisles, and woefully understocked on anything popular. The staff was unhelpful and you never saw the same person working there twice. We left on far too many occasions with a gift card instead of an actual toy.

As bad as they were, they were my Toys R Us.

My family and I lived in several places while I was growing up. My dad was in the Army and we moved on a routine schedule. Boston was always home for the summer, and we often spent Christmas here as well. My gifts, more often than not, came from this store, the closest to my grandmother’s house.

The store took on new meaning when my dad was assigned the Europe. It was 1980 and I was just starting to learn the joy of GI Joe. I had only a handful of the small figures, but my interest was piqued. Moving to Europe presented a major problem, though. GI Joe was not popular in Italy and the “country store” and PX on our bases did not stock the most recently released toys. I drooled over the toy section of the random Sears catalog that somehow managed to follow our mail to Europe. But, the toy sections of our stores had, at best, what had come out in the US the year before.

We did not make many trips home to the US in the 5 years we were there, and when we did, it was usually just for  a few weeks in the summer. More often than not, it was just my mom and I, my dad would be in te US for work and would only be able to manage a short stay in Boston.

But, when he did, we had one ritual. We went to Toys R Us and bought GI Joe stuff.

I shudder now to think back to the amount he would buy for me. 5 or 6 figures at a time, and usually one or two vehicles, etc. But, they were treasures beyond compare. Not only were they my friends for the summer (there were few kids my age in my grandmother’s neighborhood), but they were sheer bragging rights when we got back to Europe.

This ritual continued for a while after we came back from Europe. Despite having toy stores in New Jersey, and a more well stocked PX on base, we still made the ritual trip to this store. GI Joe gave way to Transformers, gave way to video games and so on.

Like I said, it became a horrible store. It may have always been, for all I recall. But, it was my store. It was part of who I was growing up, and now it’s gone.

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