Toys "R" Us: We Didn't Want to Grow Up
I don’t want to grow up.
I want to be a Toys "R" Us kid.
It’s weird how strong an effect a brand has on people. Whether it’s Nike for athletes or Disney for families, brands have cultivated a staple in our culture. I would argue that these brands hit a fever pitch during my childhood. Nike’s ads were plastered with Michael Jordan, Disney targeted families during a renaissance of animated 90’s classics and afternoon cartoons and Toys R Us got us with being a neighborhood wonderland of toys.
Now, it’s closing time.
Toys R Us is shutting its doors after trying to raise a sunken ship from the bleeding Red Sea of debt. It’s employees and consumers the victims. But with that ship drowns a quarter century of memories made, and one final one being enjoyed.
My wife had the idea to do this photo shoot. See, we were the kids who were a Toys R Us kid. We had that jingle memorized as we hummed the tune through the aisles as we struggled to pick out our next favorite toy, bought with our stockpiled cash of Christmas and birthday money.
We wandered these halls looking to add to our mountains of LEGO bricks and garages full of hot wheels. We paused to stare at a toy well out of our parents’ wallets limit, dreaming of the day that would never come of owning the biggest and baddest toy in the store.
Toys R Us as a kid was amazing. A kind and smiling giraffe to welcome us to a store designed specifically for us. A department store where we didn’t have to hear dad drone on about the technical aspects of a power tool, or wait for mom to try on a bevy of clothes. This time, the tables turned and they had to wait on us as we had to count our money to see if we had enough for the latest Barbie, or G.I. Joe. They had to roll their eyes as we debated on one item or the other as if it was a matter of life and death.
They also had to put up with the lines of “but this is only $5.00 more than my limit” and incessant bartering of “okay, but can I have $5.00 more now, and take it out of our next trip?” Even though we all knew good and well we’d try to pull the same card next time.
See, everything that was just listed isn’t happening anymore. My son here is only going to have these photos to look back on because his parents are kids at heart and are sad to see a part of their childhood die because of a variety of adult reasons that controlled the kid world we all grew up in.
In fact, it’s hard to decide what’s a harder pill to swallow: the fact that our wonderland department store was always at the fate of adult’s decisions and that the illusion is gone, or that we were just relying on the idea that this place would last forever and we would have the chance to be on the other side of that aisle bartering with our own child someday...
We’ll never know.
Instead, we have to understand that the lights are going out and our son will just have to search on a screen, ask us to pay for it and it ships right to our door. That’s his toy land now. It’s just the way it is. I hope I can find somewhere that will give him some semblance of wonder and amazement I had, because screens are great, but the true, physical act of having to decide with your own hard earned money in an actual place designed just for you, was truly an amazing thing.
Now we have to face the music:
I don’t wanna grow up, ‘cause maybe if I did,
I couldn’t be a Toys R Us Kid.
So as we documented our own personal close to an era. Where my husband and I had the chance to be a Toys R Us Kid, and where my son will just have these photos, I ask you: What is your favorite memory of this big toy box? What will you miss the most?
Written by: Jake Williams
Photos by: Hailey Williams