Clearly the thing to look for would be --- well, first, clear directions on how to get to the hospital, whose location I roughly knew but which had passed from conscious memory. But after that, where was there a toy store on anything like the path from work to the hospital? I've driven along that way many times, and surely saw a toy store somewhere, but any exact locations had never affected my memory, so far as I could remember. There was one very likely rich target spot, though, a good-sized mall just along the route.
The mall's directory promises the existence of a KayBee Toy Store, which is something of a lie since I believe there don't exist KayBee Toy Stores anywhere anymore. The mall directory didn't list any other toy stores or even any children-oriented stores which sold anything but clothes, so I tried for some likely alternatives. For example there was the dollar store, which offered a lot of toys just right for those under a year old or for those about five years old or so, all of which smelled like slightly dusty shampoo. Or there was the B Dalton's, listed on the mall directory as Barnes and Noble, which had ... brightly colored books I suspected my sister-in-law was probably not feeling up to reading at the moment. Also the FYE had had some Film Crew DVDs, although not this time. Hm. Well, there were other places, and I could at least wander downstairs and get a doughnut or something.
The Dunkin' Donuts at the food court was trapped in that curious state shops sometimes get into, in which there's a respectable enough line of people, and there are clerks at the cash register, and yet somehow nothing is quite happening to advance the line or change anything about who owns what. I waited a reasonable time for some evidence someone wanted to exchange money for goods, gave up, and went over to a cookie kiosk nearby. And that's when I saw toy store not identified on the mall directory, which reached a new low in my estimate of its credibility.
The store is aimed at the slightly upscale Brainy Children market, so that many of the toys looked to be not quite so much fun or else to impose Challenges on the kid presumed to play with them. As noted, games requiring fine motor skills were out, and while I appreciated how cool many of the gadgets were and how much I'd have loved them were they around when I was that age I started to rebel at the idea that every toy should have a microchip and a set of AA batteries inside. I started looking for things that were flagged for two-to-three year olds (a smaller set than you might have guessed), and that were just plain toys requiring nothing more than child-power.
And I happened upon something I hadn't thought about but which seemed fitting: a set of foam-core balls. She could play with those easily, and they wouldn't require too much dexterity since as if she inherited any of my athletic ability she'd catch balls by letting them fall against her and roll to a stop. Tossing would be more a matter of shoving. That would work nicely. So she would be getting an imitation tennis ball, imitation softball, and imitation half-size volleyball. The only odd thing was they were licensed merchandise for that Star Wars Clone Wars CGI movie that came out last summer that nobody, not even the creators, watched. How you get from Whinykin Vader to half-sized volleyballs I don't know, but I'm sure George Lucas doesn't either.
And ... ooh, something else, in case the balls didn't work out: how about a plastic xylophone? This satisfied every requirement for a gift to a young child not living in your own house, since it would produce noise and allows the child to engage her desire to hit things. She could probably hold the sticks in both hands, while those were gauze-covered into mittens, and yet it'd stay playable when she got use of her fingers back. Into the shopping bin it went.
When I got back to my car, with cookie and toys, I had a momentary panic when I thought I'd spent over 90 minutes in the mall. I never got around to setting my car's dashboard clock back from Daylight Saving Time. While all sanity assured me I had not wasted so much of the time available to me before the early bedtime, you try convincing my mind of something like that once it's got a fright like that. The traffic is always bad going up that route, however much Google Maps's Traffic thingy claims things are moving right along; now, the rest of the ride up, I felt a very irrational anxiety at losing time with my sister-in-law, niece time, and time to get ready for the flight in the morning, and time to get my phone working in case anything went awry.
Trivia: Between 1693 and 1791 grain consumption in Flanders fell from 758 grams per person per day to 475 grams, with potatoes replacing about two-fifths of all cereal consumption. Source: Floods, Famines, and Emperors: El Niño And The Fate of Civilizations, Brian Fagan.
Currently Reading: Asimov's Choice: Black Holes and Bug-Eyed Monsters, Editor George H Scithers. I think it's a spinoff or transmutation of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, with some right fine content (John Varley's ``Good-Bye, Robinson Crusoe'', which alone could found a decent online roleplaying game), some oddities (Martin Gardner doing variations on the probability puzzle where mothers who give birth to females are sterilized and how this affects society's gender balance; a Black Widowers mystery), and miscellaneties of late 70s science fiction writing (Earth gets conquered so aliens can outsource a particular job to India). Interesting but easy-reading stuff.