In My Own Words - “What type of store...” by Rabbi Rachel Esserman

My answer might surprise you. I was reading the Food Network Magazine and an article featured suggestions by chefs about conversation starters that could help prevent family fights about politics during the Thanksgiving meal. One chef suggests asking the question, “What type of store would you like to own?” My first thought? I’d like to own a toy store.
Not a bookstore, you ask? As much as I love books, I always thought it would be fun to own a toy store, not that it’s economially feasible to own either type of store today. I still love playing with toys and think nothing of plopping down next to a toddler and helping them play with their toys. (Well, it is harder to get on the floor than it used to be, but that was a great way to reintroduce myself to friends’ children when I used to visit them in Philadelphia or New Jersey.) When I’m in a department store, I often find myself gravitating toward the toy section to see what new types of toys are available. No, I don’t usually buy anything, but it’s fun to look, particularly at the doll section. I played with dolls long after most of my peers thought they were too childish. But I saw nothing childish about creating stories and acting them out.
As a young child, my favorite store was the Children’s Supermarket on Main Street in Endicott. The owners were my father’s clients and I would often accompany him when he went to the store. (I don’t remember if these visits took place in the evening or during the weekend, but I do remember frequent stops.) Sometimes he’d say that he wasn’t going to buy me anything if I went with him, but my memory says those purchases occurred on a regular basis. I specifically remember being told that I was not getting a Midge doll, even though a friend down the street now had one. (I was a big Barbie doll fan and Midge was her new friend.) I’m not sure how it happened, but I remember coming home with one. For someone who was not interested in fashion for herself, I loved doll’s clothing and was thrilled that I owned at least two Barbies with different hairstyles. The store also offered books and I know that’s where my Nancy Drew and Bobbsey Twins books were purchased.
Of course, there is another reason that I might have been thinking about something connected to my father. A few days before I read the Food Network Magazine, I’d received a notice about his yahrzeit from my synagogue. Although I remember his Hebrew death date (he died on the 30th of Cheshvan), the fact that it was also the Tuesday before Thanksgiving is hard to forget. This year, his yahrzeit falls on Thanksgiving itself. Fortunately, I don’t remember Thanksgiving being a major holiday in our family. I know we celebrated it, but I can’t remember exactly what we did when I was young. I do remember that the last years my dad was alive, he, my mom and I would go out for Chinese. (Yes, I know that was supposed to be for Christmas, but my family was never one to follow tradition.)
So maybe I was thinking about toy stores because I connect them to my father. Or maybe it’s because I’ve managed to retain my youthful enthusiasm and still think toys are great. (Or as some of my friends have said, “You are such a kid.”) Nostalgia is usually not my thing, but sometimes reviewing the past can warm our hearts and remind us of connections long forgotten. Either way, the question from the Food Network Magazine brought back pleasant memories.