It’s weird how strong of an effect a brand has on people. Whether it’s Nike for athletes or Disney for families, brands have cultivated a staple in our culture. I’d argue that these brands hit a fever pitch during my childhood. Nike’s ads were plastered with Michael Jordan, Disney targeted families during a renaissance of animated 90’s classics and afternoon cartoons, and Toys “R” Us got us with being a neighborhood wonderland of toys.
Now, it’s closing time.
Toys “R” Us is shutting its doors after trying to raise a sunken ship from the bleeding Red Sea of debt. It’s employees and consumers, the victims.
With that ship drowns a quarter century of memories made, and one final one being enjoyed
My wife had the idea to do this photo shoot. See, we were the kids who were a Toys “R” Us kid. We had that jingle memorized and hummed the tune through the aisles as we struggled to pick out our next favorite toy, bought with our stockpiled cash of Christmas and birthday money.
We wandered these halls looking to add to our mountains of LEGO bricks and garages full of Hot Wheels. We paused to stare at a toy well out of our parents’ wallets limit, dreaming of the day that would never come of owning the biggest and baddest toy in the store.
Toys “R” Us as a kid was amazing
A kind and smiling giraffe welcomed us to a store designed specifically for us. A department store where we didn’t have to hear dad drone on about the technical aspects of a power tool, or wait for mom to try on a bevy of clothes.
This time, the tables turned and they had to wait on us as we counted our money to see if we had enough for the latest Barbie, or G.I. Joe. They had to roll their eyes as we debated on one item or the other as if it was a matter of life and death. They also had to put up with the lines of “but this is only $5.00 more than my limit” and incessant bartering of “okay, but can I have $5.00 more now, and take it out of our next trip?”
(Even though we all knew good and well we’d try to pull the same card next time)
See, all of that won’t happen anymore. My son here will only have these photos to look back on, because his parents are kids at heart. We’re sad to see a part of our childhood die, because of a variety of adult reasons that controlled the kid world we all grew up in.
In fact, it’s hard to decide what’s a harder pill to swallow: the fact that our wonderland, department store was always at the fate of adult’s decisions, or that we were relying on the idea that this place would last forever – with the chance to be on the other side of that aisle, bartering with our own child someday… we’ll never know.
Instead, the lights are going out. Our son will search on a screen, ask us to pay for it, and it ships right to our door. That’s his toy land now.
It’s just the way it is. I hope I can find somewhere that’ll give him some semblance of the wonder and amazement I had. Screens are great, but the true, physical act of having to decide with your own, hard-earned money in an actual place designed just for you, was truly an amazing thing.
Now we have to face the music.
I don’t want to grow up, cause maybe if I did, I couldn’t be a Toys “R” Us Kid.
What might you wanna remember about your past + your present that you haven’t yet documented?
Create a To-Remember list and save some of your best from slipping through the cracks.
Story + photography contributed by Hailey and Jacob Williams.
About Hailey Williams: Hailey Williams, the one behind Archer Inspired, focuses on wedding and lifestyle photography in the Bay Area of California. Her husband Jacob, who’s better with words, wrote this article, while she photographed the images, while their son Archer enjoyed Toys R Us for the first and last time. Together as a family they believe in pursuing their dreams and passions and living those out daily.