Toys R Us Brings Back the Memories by Sharon O’Donnell

My three sons are ages 26, 23, and 17. I’ve spent many Christmases buying Power Ranger toys, video games, and Red Sox merchandise, particularly if the Sox won a championship as they did in ’04, ’07, and ’13. I spent much time at the local Toys ‘R’ Us, roaming the aisles looking for just the right gifts.  Then it was just about clothes — and sports — always sports. Now that they are grown up, they usually just text or email links to things they want, and I go the website and buy the items — easier but with none of the surprise that real ‘shopping’ brings to the faces of little boys.

Now they are men. My youngest is 17, a sweet but sarcastic teen, who just became an Eagle Scout (his brothers and father are also Eagle Scouts — yep, we have had at least one son in Scouting since 1996. Wow. He is also a bit tired of GPA’s and the SAT/ACT — as I am; junior year in high school is tough. But I’m glad to know my husband and I will have him here at home with us for another year and a half.

My middle son is in his grad year for a Masters in Accounting after graduating from college last year. He is also studying for his CPA exams — a challenge for someone like him with OCD and feels the need to review everything again and again before moving on to the next section. He already has a job lined up with an accounting firm upon his graduation from the Master’s program. He has been dating the same girl since they were both sophomores in high school. 8 years. She is wonderful, too, and is in a PhD program. I still can so vividly remember the days when neit


her of them was old enough to drive, so we had to chauffeur them everywhere.

My oldest son is also in accounting, a CPA for a major firm, living in Washington, D.C. for the past five months — about a 4 and a half hour drive from our home in Raleigh. Thank goodness for our family group text because it makes him seem nearby and keeps us all in touch. My oldest has been dating a girl from his grad program who lives in Denver. He is spending Christmas with her and her family in Colorado — his first Christmas away from home — the first one any of my boys have been away from home for the holidays. And I’m fine with it because although I miss him an incredible amount, I know he is happy. He has been unhappy at home for Christmas in the past, and I know I’d rather have him elsewhere and happy than here and unhappy. He did tell me before he left for Denver that he would miss coming down our stairs on Christmas morning and turning the corner into the family room — the room where Santa always left those treasures when he and his brothers were little — the room that he helped me decorate every year with lights, a tree, and a cross on the mantel. I’m glad to know that he has those good memories because sometimes a mom wonders if all the work that went on during all those years created the memories she had intended.

Still, he is away. His absence has led me to a feeling somewhat melancholy about the passage of time. We didn’t do a picture Christmas card this year of all the boys and our dog — something we had done since Billy was our only child and went solo on annual card sent to friends and relatives. Last year, we updated a huge frame on  our wall that contains all those cards in order since 1991; it had been a gift from my husband and sons several years ago, but we enlarged it and updated it to include the past three years of cards. Practically, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to keep adding to the huge frame, especially now that the boys are grown. So we didn’t do the Christmas card photo. Part of me was relieved because I was the one who always had to orchestrate it among my reluctant sons; but, part of me was sad, too.

Perhaps that is why last night as I was out doing some last minute shopping of some odds and ends, I found myself at the local Toys ‘R’ Us. I hadn’t been there in years; even when I’d shopped for great nieces and nephews or other kids, I’d usually go to Target or order on-line because both were more convenient. But yet — there I was at Toys ‘R’ Us. I had nothing to buy there, but I’d felt drawn to it way on the other edge of the monstrous shopping center. I walked in that familiar door, and suddenly I felt as if my three boys should be with me — ages 10, 7, and 1.  I remembered their faces so clearly, their voices – their joy at looking at the toys. I felt a physical stab of pain in my heart, as their absence engulfed me.

The store had aged some, but hey — so had I. The aisles were a bit messy, and the floors were worn. They had moved some things around in there, but the Power Rangers were still in the same place. I stood there before the Red Ranger and the megazords and just stared at them. It was like they were old friends.

And then I left quickly, feeling kind of empty yet complete at the same time. But I did snap a photo of a ‘Legacy” Megazord the guys used to love and texted it to them. I know they will remember.


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