Firstly let me be clear: I have absolutely nothing against Toys ‘R’ Us. I have no hidden agenda, no miserable experience, and no repressed memories (at least none that I know of!). I have very fond memories of the Toys ‘R’ Us in Times Square, where in the summer of 2005 and again with my then fiancé Theresa I rode the indoor Ferris Wheel then walked around wishing I were still a kid.
Having said that I was saddened by news today that the giant toy retailer acquired the New York City landmark FAO Schwarz. It is the death of an era.
My first visit to FAO was during my first visit to New York City with my parents; I was ten years old – give or take – and I remember very little about the visit except three things: I loved the myriad electronics discount stores where I got to look at computers, I loved seeing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and I absolutely loved FAO Schwartz, which for the first hour of our visit I was absolutely convinced was heaven. They let you play with toys, and they had every toy in the world!
The retailer is featured in countless movies… BIG comes to mind, with Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia play Chopsticks on the floor-keyboard. Of course there were many more, but what we see there cannot compare to the quarter-century old memories of a ten-year-old boy who felt like he had found Nirvana and never wanted to leave. That is of course how it is always portrayed in movies… as the greatest place on earth for children. That was what it was for me.
I remember sitting in Calories – a cafe in Montreal that served the greatest deserts, trying to describe it to my friends, years later. Of course I couldn’t remember the name… so I picked up the payphone, dialed 212-555-1212 and, feeling a little stupid, tried to explain to the operator that I needed to remember the name of this incredible toy store in Manhattan. She knew right away what I meant and gave me precisely the information I needed!
I hope that the change in ownership does not destroy this piece of my childhood – and that of countless others. I hope they maintain the name, location, and atmosphere, although I cannot see how they could. After all corporate run stores are seldom run the same as those run by people who love them and have a vested interest in them.
I hope they don’t remove the magic from this magical place. If they do I will never be able to take my children – both born and unborn – there to experience the same magical feelings of pure innocence and happiness that I felt when I was ten.
The other day I told Aaron (my son) that he didn’t know how lucky he was to have his life. Well, I might not have then, but I realize it now. Thanks Arthur and Miriam (Mom and Dad!) for taking me there, and to countless other places when I was a child.