Monday, March 19, 2018

Requiem for a Toy Store

I see in the news that Toys R Us will soon be no more. My kids are past the age now where toys are a major purchase item for us, and I'm certainly happy buying online for any incidental plaything purchases I need to make. But the thought of Toys R Us stores closing still touches my heart, because some of the best times I spent with my son when he was young took place at our local Toys R Us.

Some of the cheapest, too.

The visits I'm thinking of weren't about picking big birthday presents or getting major gear for the yard or the bedroom (although we absolutely had those too—don't blame me for the company going under). The ones I remember most fondly revolved around my son picking out a single Matchbox or Hot Wheels car. One tiny automobile.

Honestly, he could scan those spinners looking for Just the Right One for, like, an hour and a half.

And I'd gladly let him. I'd bring a book with me and find an out-of-the-way patch of floor to sit on while he reveled in the many many many options, going back and forth, considering so carefully, delighted to have the freedom of extremely leisurely choice.

Time to indulge his obsessions was not something he got a lot of in those days. Teachers and therapists were generally invested in preventing exactly that. Focusing attention on what other people found important was at the top of the skill goals others had for him. I was often advised that such obsessions were bad for him and something I must work vigorously to curtail.

I didn't tell them about our ninety-minute toy store idylls.

I had come to learn that his obsessions—for little toy cars, certainly, and for keys as well—offered the kind of door into his attention and personality and interest that was otherwise so hard to find. I was sure not going to slam it. While our Toys R Us car-search visits weren't what some parents would call "together time," since we weren't actually interacting, these moments of peaceful co-existence were a nice oasis in an often stressful time in our lives.

Mom got a little respite with her book. Boy got time to focus on something that interested him. And in the end, I bought a 99-cent car and we headed home. Lots of value for that 99 cents.

I'm grateful for Toys R Us for allowing us the space and tolerance to just let a boy endlessly shop and look and love and appreciate and make whatever calculations were going on in his head. And let a mom just hang without hurrying him. It was a safe and peaceful space, and one we needed. RIP, old store. You'll live in my memory.

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