Just last week, Toys “R” Us announced that it would be closing its U.S. stores, and I genuinely felt sad about this — sadder than I did when my parents told ten-year-old me we would no longer be going to Blockbuster on Saturdays for our weekend movie nights (until a year and a half ago, I actually kept a Blockbuster membership card in my wallet).
Perhaps this especially wistful reaction is due to the fact that not three blocks from my paternal grandparents’ house is a shopping plaza, at which there used to be a Toys “R” Us location. Whenever my parents would drop my younger brother and me off at our grandparents’ place, we’d frequently ask our grandma to bring us to Toys “R” Us. We didn’t always go there with the intention of getting our grandma to buy us something — sometimes, just bringing home the catalogue to pore over was enough for us. However, there were times when we’d stay in the store for hours as we figured out how to use different toys, and despite her best efforts, our grandma would occasionally lose track of us. It got to the point where Matthew and I figured out that finding our grandma would be faster than having her find us, so if we were ever lost and wanted to go home, she’d hear the following on the store’s PA system: “Betty, please come to Customer Service. Betty, your grandkids, Jacqueline and Matthew, are here looking for you.” We’d also do this at the local Mervyn’s, a department store chain that closed in the late 2000s.
Inevitably, we would convince our grandparents that we needed — that we just had to have — something, and they’d cave in and buy it for us. One of these purchases was the iconic Razor A Kick Scooter for kids! I really cannot think of any other toy that Matthew and I enjoyed as much as our scooters, not even his Hot Wheels or my Polly Pockets. Our grandparents’ neighborhood is a cul-de-sac situated on a pretty steep hill, so Matthew and I would buckle our helmets, strap on our knee pads and take our scooters to the top of the cul-de-sac’s incline. When our grandma yelled to us that no cars were driving through the neighborhood, we’d lift our feet off the ground and feel the air rushing against our faces as we rode down the hill, feeling as if we were flying in the sky or riding a rollercoaster. We’d also do this with the bikes that our grandparents eventually bought us from Toys “R” Us.
Another elderly couple in the neighborhood had two grandkids named Patrick and Lauren, who were around the same age as my brother and I. Soon after we got our scooters, we rode around with Patrick and Lauren on their Razors. As a result, whenever either pair of us was in the neighborhood, we’d run to the house of the other pair’s grandparents and ring the doorbell to see if they were in. In fact, the first time I ever ate a banana split or drank ginger ale was at Patrick and Lauren’s grandparents’ house; their grandmother was surprised that Matthew and I didn’t even know what they were. I eventually developed a crush on Patrick (because I thought he had pretty lips!), and I confided in Matthew. Of course, in typical kid-fashion, Matthew told Patrick how I felt, and I was so embarrassed I avoided Patrick for a while. Thus, the Razor scooter exposed me to not only American food, but also the awkward experience of puppy love.
But these experiences with Razor scooters are probably just specific to me. If there’s anything all kid owners of Razor scooters will remember, it’s hitting the bottom of the scooter against your shin or ankle. The result: yelps, tears, bruises and scratches — no wonder the brand’s name is Razor! No matter how hard I tried to keep it from happening, I’d subconsciously lift my foot off the scooter and before I could move my other foot fast enough, the sharp pain of metal against skin-covered bone reminded me of my failure.
And so, my memories of Toys “R” Us and Razor scooters are bittersweet. From freedom and food to affection and agony, this toy of my childhood introduced me to a variety of emotions and encounters. As I reluctantly conclude this article I wasn’t even sure I was going to write, I am becoming nostalgic for the fun in and innocence of being a child and experiencing something for the first time in my life. That’s not to say that my future “firsts” won’t be as exciting, but while the announcement of Toys “R” Us’ closure reminds me of my happy childhood, it also demonstrates how time and our ever-changing culture have sealed off that part of my life.