Never Growing Up, But It’s Time for Saying Goodbye

Picture by Andrew LoVuolo,

Today, as I type these words, the Toys R Us I called mine closed.  By the time this post is published, the other store in the area will be on its last day if not closed already, as will all of the other stores in the country.

Today is truly a sad day for me.  When TRU announced new closings earlier this year, there was a store in my area listed.  I panicked at the thought of my Toys R Us being closed to save the corporation money, and then when I realized it was the Babies R Us store down the road, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.  My store was safe!

Two months later, as BRU was in the middle of their closure, TRU declared all stores would be closed.

It was a stay of execution of two months.  Two months of happiness and blissful ignorance of the fact that TRU was on life support and fading fast.

It was March when that declaration came.  Three months of slowly seeing the store I loved get emptier and emptier.  Random trucks would appear with new stock for a while, but even that was just only a glimmer of life.  Three months went by so fast.

Two days ago, it said there were four days left, and then yesterday, it said only two days left.  Stock had gotten so low that there was no point extending its life past today, and even as I was in there yesterday, workers were tearing apart shelves around me, the cacophony of tools and destruction ringing the death knell of the store, an act being repeated hundreds of times around the country.

My Toys R Us
My Toys R Us, on its final day

So, my Toys R Us is no longer. It brings to mind when my childhood TRU closed two years ago.  I never got the chance to say goodbye to that store, the store where I had spent many an hour looking at all the toys, playing games, sitting on the bikes, and eagerly bringing slips of paper up to The Cage, knowing that that small thin white and black rectangle would soon be exchanged for some new video game.  For over thirty years, that TRU had been my TRU. But I moved closer to another TRU which became my TRU, which is the one that is now gone.

Oh, what memories I will cherish of my time, and I have but two regrets.  One regret is that I never was part of Geoffrey’s Birthday Club.  The other is I never signed up my kid for the club, either.  Neither of us will know what it was like to celebrate a birthday at the store.

I don’t know what kind of memories my kid will have of Toys R Us.  Maybe there will be some faint glimmers of an entire store dedicated to just toys. Maybe there will be a random thought that leads to a trip down memory lane to the Paw Patrol toys, or the Star Wars aisle. Or maybe there won’t be much of anything, just brief flashes. I tried to get my kid to TRU as much as possible these last three months.  The last time was Father’s Day, when we got to go to my TRU as well as the other one. Two Toys R Us stores in one day?  That brought out a huge smile, even as the questions came at me — “What happened to all the toys? Why is this store empty? What happened to the big Thomas the Train that was here?”

They’re gone. They’re all gone, maybe finding homes in basements or museums or back alleys. Maybe they’ll be loved.  Maybe they’ll be ignored.

The part that always brings me to rage, though, is the fact that it didn’t have to be this way.  Don’t let anyone tell you differently — greed is what killed Toys R Us.  Yes, it was facing competition from Amazon, Target and Walmart. Yes, stores were outdated and needed upgrades. But they couldn’t put any money to fixing their problems because it had to all go to paying down an insurmountable debt. Venture Capitalists, in their greed, bought TRU and put so much debt on it, that it’s been treading water for years, and it finally grew too tired to keep up.

Greed killed TRU. Greed prevented the workers from getting severance pay. And the only thing we can do is try to learn from it and not repeat the same mistake, even though it’s already happening to so many other stores.

Photo making the rounds today, text from Toys R Us Facebook
Photo mashup making the rounds today,. Photo by Rene Johnpiere, text from Toys R Us Facebook

My Internet chum Pixel Dan tweeted today on reading comments about Toys R Us, and that it may have been just a store, but it made him sad.

Just a store, I thought?  I replied as such:

TRU was also much more than a store. It was a place of magic for kids, a place where every corner, shelf, nook, and cranny held a toy — no, a potential promise of new worlds or adventures or songs or parties or crafts or cuddling with stuffed friends.

TRU was were girls and boys got to be rewarded for good grades or behavior, or to make them feel better when sad. TRU held birthdays and bat/bar mitzvahs and Christmas and so many other holidays. TRU was hours of our youth, and maybe our kids’ youth.

TRU was wonder and excitement and FUN. And its loss hurts. And it can make us feel less secure in this completely crazy world we live in. And any feeling you have about TRU is valid. Just a store? Hardly. Toys R Us was LIFE for kids of all ages.

And now we face a future without Toys R Us. We may get a new entity with the same name, but it will be different. It will be different people in charge with different distribution, with different goals. It may have the initials, it may have Geoffrey, but it won’t be the same.

It may be enough for today’s kids. Maybe it will be enough to inspire them to Never Grow Up, just like my generation will Never Grow Up. And we can always tell them about Toys R Us as we get older, because that’s what we do.

But while we may Never Grow Up, we do have to say goodbye. To do that, I call upon other friends from my childhood, The Muppets, and “Saying Goodbye” by Jeff Moss.

Saying goodbye, going away,
Seems like goodbye’s such a hard thing to say.
Touching a hand, wondering why
It’s time for saying goodbye.
Saying goodbye – why is it sad?
Makes us remember the good times we’ve had.
Much more to say, foolish to try,
It’s time for saying goodbye.
Don’t want to leave, but we both know
Sometimes it’s better to go.
Somehow I know we’ll meet again.
Not sure quite where, and I don’t know just when.
You’re in my heart, so until then
Wanna smile, wanna cry
Saying goodbye.
It’s time for saying goodbye.

Maybe we won’t meet again unless in our memories. But maybe we’ll meet again as we help kids discover fun and laughter and enjoyment. Because kids make us adults feel like kids again. And that’s Never Growing Up.

Goodbye, Toys R Us.  And Thanks.