By Francis Wilkinson
"I am free."
The thought pierced my cold, dark consciousness as I crossed a desolate commuterscape toward an early-morning train.
Before exiting my parked car, I had rifled through sections of the New York Times in case of momentous news out of Syria, Park Slope or Madison Square Garden. Instead, I found something grimly unnerving: an insert, bathed in blue and orange hues, that seemed hideously familiar. Dear God. Toys "R" Us was back.
"Door Busters!" the insert shrieked, with the R in "Door" reversed in dull homage to the illiteracy that, along with cheap crap from China in perpetuity, is one of the twin towers of the Toys "R" Us Inc. brand. My eyes locked on "My Talking LapPup," available in "Violet" or "Scout." Fisher-Price Inc.'s "Bedtime Peppa Pig" beckoned from an adjacent coupon panel. At the bottom of the first page - oh, yes, there were six - was a warning that the "Buy 1 Get 1 40% Off Mix & Match SALE!" had only two days to go. Violent video games, bad movies and various branded detritus from the plastics factory would soon experience a devastating price spike.
Panic had begun to seize me when a beautiful moment, the kind you can own and recall over the course of an entire lifetime, materialized out of the frigid air itself. "I have teenagers," I realized. "Put down the insert. It's over."
My cherished daughter, who once pined for a "Hop Along Pink Pony" - the desperate purchase of which, at the last minute on Dec. 24 after weeks of hopeless searching, had pitched her mother into triumphant, transcendent bliss - simply doesn't care anymore. My son, whose contributions to the plastics industry dwarf anything Deng Xiaoping ever mustered, would like some nice clothes, thank you very much.
Yes, it has been a long walk to freedom. There were difficult moments along the way, times when the garish, prisonlike aisles of storecrap seemed to close in, threatening to crush me physically and spiritually. But I never gave up hope. I always believed in my heart this day would come. I will never walk into Toys "R" Us again. I am free. Unless I have grandchildren.