Why I am sad Toys R Us has closed its doors for the last time

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

When my children were little, I would often take them to Toys R Us when we were at the local shopping centre. 

Getting two toddlers or young children to behave in a shopping centre isn't always easy, so the promise of a quick trip to look at the toys was my way of getting them to behave while I did my errands. A reward for waiting patiently, not running away or throwing themselves on the ground. 

My husband would complain if he was with me. "Why are we going in here? They're not getting anything!" But he didn't know our system and that they were almost always happy to simply browse the shelves, with no expectation of a purchase.

They would excitedly plan their list of presents for an upcoming birthday or Christmas and I would love to see their little faces, eyes wide in excitement, as they found something new in the store.

As the years went on, our trips grew less frequent. Soon Toys R Us had less pull than a surf shop for him or stationery store for her. Pens and pencil cases or the latest flat cap became much more sought after than a toy.  

The last few Christmases of hiding toys in garage cupboards, double bagged in garbage bags, came and went. 

My husband couldn't wait for the toy stage to end, and I probably felt the same way myself at times.   

But when it finally happened last Christmas, when there were no more toys to hide and batteries to buy and dolls houses to put together long after midnight on Christmas Eve, I found myself bereft.  

When brochures announced major annual toy sales, instead of relief that this was no longer part of my world, I felt sadness that there was no one in my house to buy them for.

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So, when I found myself visiting a sporting goods store right next door to Toys R Us earlier this year, an invisible force pulled me inside.

I was soon traversing the aisles, past rows of LEGO and board games, baby dolls and craft, bikes, skateboards and Star Wars figurines, NERF guns, dress up outfits and whatever the latest trend was in toys.

Occasionally my eyes paused on something I recognised. A toy that was once a favourite of one of my children. Or the LEGO set my son had always wanted but never got. A doll my daughter had asked for one Christmas but didn't receive because we said it was too much like the ones she already had.  

A little girl in one of the aisles was doing just what my children used to do while her mother scrolled through her phone. I wanted to snatch it out of her hands and shout "What are you doing? Don't you know she'll only want to come to toy shops for so long? Get off you phone and take it in. Remember every detail before it's over!"

But of course, I didn't. I remember when good meaning strangers would tell me to "enjoy them while they are babies". I wanted to smack them in the face with a baby rattle. Didn't they know I had been up half the night with screaming child? 

Same with the toddler phase, preschool phase, etc. Everyone either wants to tell you to enjoy your child while they are a certain age, or warns you to brace yourself because it only gets worse.  

Of course, we all know our children are going to grow up, but like the song says, you don't know what you miss until it's gone.

That's how I found myself browsing a toy shop, sans children, in the middle of a weekday, reminiscing about the children who were once there with me. 

The same children who, not that long ago, would run to greet me at the door if I had been out, hold my hand as we walked along the beach, shower me in kisses and beg me to play with them.

That's why I am sad thatToys R Us closed its doors for the last time this week.

Toys R Us was like a portal to another time, where I could turn back the clock and get a glimpse of those little people who were gone forever. My time machine to the past, where my children were small again. 

I will miss walking through those doors, with my memories of them beside me.