For the most part, I’d say my Mama is a fairly honest person.
Even when that truth may hurt a little.
Like the time when I was a kid and I asked her if I was fat. She told me I was maybe not my ideal weight; she tempered this statement with the loving reassurance she would help me lose the weight if I wanted to but it was up to me.
Mama was honest about those things to a fault.
But when it came to the truth about a certain toy store, she may not have been quite as forthcoming.
They say a half-truth, or an omission of truth is the same as a lie, even when there was no malintent.
Mama probably doesn’t see it that way; in her mind, the justification was probably more like she hated toy stores and was trying a bit of self-preservation more than anything.
She could barely spend 10 minutes in Kay Bee Toys or ToyLand at Georgia Square Mall without feeling claustrophobic and needing to venture out of the store.
“Why do they make the aisles so tiny?” she would complain as I browsed stuff animals and board games. “Why is everything stacked to the ceiling in here? This looks awfully dangerous. It could fall on a small child.”
Even the days I couldn’t find anything – which were rare – I just loved seeing all the toys.
My sheltered little existence led me to believe the only place to shop was at the mall in Athens.
Atlanta, or anywhere in the vicinity, was just too far away and required a day trip.
Granny had even declared, “If we can’t find it in Athens, then we don’t need it.”
But then I started seeing commercials for a toy store I hadn’t been in before: Toys R Us.
Where a kid could be a kid, the ad promised.
“I am not sure what that means,” Mama said. “You can be a kid right here and have been. What’s the big deal?”
“They are bigger, Mama! It wouldn’t make you feel all clausta – what’s the word you said?”
“Claustrophobic,” she said.
“That word. It would be bigger. Better.”
To Mama, it sounded like it would be a bigger version of what she had already experienced.
I begged her to take me. I didn’t want to go to Disney, I wanted to go to a new, bigger toy store.
And Mama looked at me with as much sincerity as she had in her skinny little body and said, “Kitten, I am sorry. They don’t have Toys R Us in Georgia.”
But, but, but….what?
“They had a commercial on the TV though….”
“Oh, yeah, they are letting people know about it in other states. In fact, I have heard from another lady at work, they only have them in Australia.”
“Why would they only have them in Australia?” I asked.
“Isn’t the little animal they use a kangaroo?”
“It’s a giraffe,” I said.
“Then the only stores are wherever giraffes are from. But you keep wishing, Kitten.”
I believed my Mama, too.
Until one day, a school field trip took us somewhere towards Atlanta.
And there it was in plain view from the road, the sacred mecca of toy stores: Toys R Us.
“We finally got a Toys R Us!” I exclaimed.
A friend looked at me like I was crazy. “It’s been there,” the friend said.
“What? Mama said they only had them where giraffes came from.”
The friend shook her head and told me Mama must have been wrong. She may have thought I was a little odd, too but I didn’t care. We had a Toys R Us!
I could not wait to tell Mama!
“Guess what I saw today?” I said when Mama picked me up that afternoon.
“The play at the puppetry place?”
“A Toys R Us! In Georgia! I am so excited! Now you can take me!”
All color drained from all of Mama’s freckles.
“What? Where did you see that?”
I told her. “You can take me now. It’s been there a while, too. All my friends have already been.”
“That’s a bit far though,” she said, “I don’t know the way there and I am not good with directions.”
She was realizing sadly, surely, her jig was up. But she didn’t want to admit it and accept defeat. Defeat would mean she would have to take me where I could be a kid.
“Now that they are in Georgia, when we get one closer, I will make sure to take you.”
“But, Mama –” I began.
“You know my work schedule is so crazy. As soon as we get one closer, I will take you. I promise.”
I reminded her of this promise not too long ago.
It’s funny how parents have very selective memories when it comes to those promises they make to avoid a hissie fit.
“I don’t remember that promise,” Mama scoffed. “Besides, I took you to Toys R Us!”
“No, you didn’t!”
“I most certainly did.”
“Mama,” I began, “The first time I set foot in the Athens Toys R Us was seven years ago when we took Cole.”
Not missing a beat, Mama said, “Yeah, and who took you? Promise fulfilled.”
Maybe 35 years later, but technically, she did.