For starters, I have to thank fellow Film Twitter denizen and professional critic Jake Hamilton for inspiring this piece. If you want to read his work, and you should, head over to his Twitter feed as a starter's course.
My favorite Toys R Us memories have always been when my grandfather from my father’s side would always want to go to TRU and shop during his visits. He liked to give me, and eventually my brothers, money during his visit, so we could grab something during our shopping trips. Grandpa Mario (the first our line of three Marianos, myself being the third) liked to go to the mall too, but Toys R Us was always the special part. As a kid, it was all about the video game wall. I was growing up in the golden age of the NES. So any chance I got, I grabbed a card, took it to the special window, and grabbed myself anything from Bugs Bunny’s Birthday Blowout to Mickey Mousecapade.
But there was something more special to these visits. For a while before my birth, my father and his father weren’t talking. Dad’s parents divorced when he was young, and that naturally drove a rift between the two of them. Yet somehow, with my arrival impending, they bridged their differences and had a good relationship until Grandpa passed just a couple of years ago. I think he liked taking us to Toys R Us because it was a way of making up for lost time with Dad, while at the same time giving Dad some of that joy back as well. So while Toys R Us was a childhood standby for all kids, it had a little more emotional real estate in our family.
My last Toys R Us memory, so far – as I’m planning to hit our local store one last time tonight, was this past Valentine’s Day. My youngest brother and I were getting fitted for tuxes in the area, as I was getting married in less than a month at that time. We were in the area of the Toms River store, so we decided to drop in, as there was a Pop figure set I wanted to surprise my fiancée with. As we walked the aisles, we cracked jokes, laughed, and talked about anything and everything, the usual. But once we hit the Matchbox car aisle, we both got a little quieter. We were both thinking the same thing, and my brother was the one to say it first: “I miss Grandpa.” He loved Matchbox cars, and collected them – just like my Dad did at one point.
Any time I set foot in a Toys R Us, I feel my grandfather there, in the back of my mind, whether I realize it or not. I’m going to miss walking the store’s aisles, and if it was up to me, I’d buy one out and renovate it into a living space – signage and all. Geoffrey the Giraffe symbolizes what it means to be an eternal kid, and I’m one in a proud line of Reyes men that keep that spirit alive. Thank you, Toys R Us. Thank you, Geoffrey. The memories you’ve given us are too precious to ever forget, and I hope some day, you’ll stick your neck out of the blue and return to neighborhoods everywhere once more. I have faith in that possibility, as I’ll always be a Toys R Us kid.
For now though, let's remember the good times one last time. Sing along if you know the words, guys.