When I was a kid — maybe seven years old — I went to a Toys ‘R Us somewhere near Boston.
As soon as I heard tell of this mysterious place, I knew I had to go. Though, admittedly, I sometimes wondered if it may be nothing more than a legend. Something invented by parents to get us to eat horrific green vegetables.
But even as a child, I was the “sippie cup half full” type and made myself believe the tales were true.
“A big store? JUST toys?”
As you might imagine, our visit with relatives was interrupted frequently with “Are we going to the toy store TODAY?”
I’m not sure what effect this had on the original itinerary, but one day I asked the same question and finally got a different answer.
I was old enough to recognize the tone. And young enough to just not care.
I ate the rest of my breakfast standing up, bouncing foot to foot.
I suppose that would explain why the asked so many times if I had to use the washroom before we headed out.
We piled into the car together — something that they vowed never to do again after a slight mishap involving me sliding off my shoes on the thirteen hour drive to Massachusetts. I think we all learned a little something that trip about the damage a little boy can do to sneakers if he wears them every day without socks, and has a fascination with corralling tadpoles in swamps.
I was looking in the other direction when we pulled into the large and crowded parking lot.
But then I saw the giant, colourful letters.
I tried to jump out of my seat.
I unhooked my seat belt and tried to jump out of my seat again.
“Hey… why is that R backwards? Oh I don’t care! How much money can I spend?”
I am surprised that the car didn’t collapse inwards with the long, deep breaths my parents took, trying to brace themselves for what they were sure was about to happen.
As soon as I got out of the car, someone grabbed the back of my shirt to keep me from setting a hundred meter dash time of the most juiced-up sprinter towards that front door.
And when I got inside…
If I could have put my jumbled thoughts into words, I would have whispered, “I’m home.”
My head turned side to side, trying to take EVERYTHING in.
Eventually I began to wander.
One of the first things that registered with me were the row upon row of toy cars
With destinies already planned out.
Races. Jumps. Demolition derbies
There were baseballs that would eventually break windows. Old people — even as old as their thirties! — would keep them in protest.
I saw so many shelves of dolls for little girls to whisper secrets to. Dolls that were going to be hugged. Dolls that were going to be left behind in fast food restaurants, and maybe even end up in the arms of other children who had an even bigger need to whisper secrets to them.
Every toy had a story yet to play out.
Some full of neglect and ending with being ingloriously chewed on by some mangy dog.
But in this place, in this moment, it was nothing but beginnings.
I loved it.
It was palpable.
It was huge.
I miss those feelings.
As adults, we feel them all too infrequently.
But sometimes, you know?
A first bite of some new dish.
If a relationship is right.
If her hand is in yours.
Every day can feel like standing in the entrance to Toys ‘R Us.
Just hopefully in less stinky shoes.