When he was 2¹/₂, my wife and I enrolled our son Michael in a once-a-week Mandarin language class. Every Sunday, I sacrificed watching a NFL game to drive 30 minutes south to a high school in Highlands Ranch. There, the Great Wall Chinese Academy transformed the empty halls and classrooms of the public high school into a Chinese elementary and middle school.
From his desk, Michael’s feet couldn’t touch the floor. Even so, he sat still for the first hour of class, talked and played with the other kids during the snack break, and sat still again for the second hour of instruction. Over those 8 months of classes, I remember him speaking only a handful of Mandarin words (though he did enjoy writing characters). After the last class of the year, it was clear to me that Michael would not be a multi-linguist.
A month into the summer, my son looked up and asked one day, “When are we going back to the school?” He asked that same question every day until he returned to the Chinese academy in the fall.
The following fall, he started kindergarten at a language immersion school, learning Mandarin full-time. It was there that he learned his Mandarin name, “Mei-Mei.” It seemed to perfectly fit this boy who was always brimming with cuteness.
When I began the toy store, I wanted to incorporate my son’s name in the business, since it sprang from the thousands of dollars spent on toys for him and the thousands of hours we spent playing with them. Millennium Michael’s Toys is still the formal company name, the product of an intense company meeting in the car (“No, Michael, we can’t call ourselves ‘Dragon Fire Toys’.”) When I needed to shorten the company name to one word, I thought of Michael’s Mandarin name. A quick mutation in English and MyMyToyStore was born.