R.I.P. Toys-R-Us

You may have heard the news. No, they’re not going out of business yet. But if you’ve heard the updates on the news, you know the end of Toys-R-Us will soon be upon us.

Because let’s be honest, if a kids aren’t getting their toys off of Amazon these days, they’re at the most going to go to Walmart or Target. They wouldn’t even recognize Geoffrey (geoffrey-the-giraffe-toysrus-5.42) if he had an armload of iPads shaped like fidget spinners.

But back in my day, Amazon was a river I misspelled on my geography tests and the idea of getting a toy from Walmart was beneath me. Toys-R-Us was a dream destination, and to say that I have extremely fond memories of it is a drastic understatement.

For example, I absolutely must start with the tale of the amazing

Child-Sized Battery-Powered Cars

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re either in your late 40’s, or you were one of those kids that watched PBS for fun. Toys-R-Us had a display of these cars that were…well, child-sized and battery-powered. They would go as fast as – what I thought at the time was at least the equivalent of a suburban speed limit – but what really was around 2.5 mph.

We never got one, no matter HOW many times we asked. But the second we walked into the store, my brothers and I would trample kids over and shove aside shopping carts just to get to the car section. Then when we had to leave, we would beg and plead and try to extend our time for as long as possible.

And as we were getting dragged out by our feet, we told our parents how lucky they were that they got their own car to drive whenever they wanted.

My second story is going to be an obvious one, because what “childhood memory of Toys-R-Us” blog post would be complete without a narrative about

Christmas Shopping

Certainly not this one.

Every year, a few weeks following up to Christmas, my dad would load me and my brothers up in the car for our sibling Christmas shopping trip. The sibling Christmas shopping trip would go like this:

  • We’d each go to our respective sections (me: the girl section for anything Polly Pocket or Beanie Baby, them: the boy section for dumb boy stuff).
  • We would then decide on a variety of toys suitable to open on the big day.
  • Our dad would come to our section, take notes on our selection, and find the other siblings to let them know.
  • The other siblings would then pick out what toy they wanted to give as a gift.
  • Then we’d all go do what we had wanted to since we arrived (the car section), and drive around until it was time to leave.

My dad, of course, paid for all of the gifts we gave to each other. Which is perhaps what I miss most about this scenario.

The next story is one of hope and inspiration. It’s a story about

The Time My Dad Almost Got a Job at Toys-R-Us

One evening, when I was in third grade, my dad came home after work and told us that his company had gotten bought out. That meant that everyone there was going to lose their job, including him. Not realizing the implications of a job loss (poverty, homelessness, us having to use our own allowance to buy Christmas presents), I deemed the announcement as fantastic news.

Now he could finally be an employee at Toys-R-Us like I had always dreamed.

I told him the good news, eager for this whole “job loss” to be behind us and the free toys to start flowing.

He appreciated my advice, but unfortunately never got around to picking up an application. Shortly after the company buy-out, he found another job at a nearby insurance company.

But instead of unlimited toys, he does my taxes, which I suppose worked out in the end.

So, in unrelated news, I don’t know how to do sidebars on this blog. But if I did, this story (well, less of a story and more of a “thank you, Toys-R-Us”) would be a

Sidebar

When I was an au pair in Australia, I had to find ways every day to entertain a three-year-old. When I ran out of ideas, or grew sick of feeding those scary ass ducks, we would go to Toys-R-Us. I could sit on my phone and text all of my cool Australian friends, while she would look at and touch all of the dolls and stuffed animals (that she didn’t know that were supposed to come out of the box). Thank you, Toys-R-Us. So

In Conclusion

Toys-R-Us, this one goes out to you. I’m eternally disappointed that one day soon (just being realistic here) you’ll be shutting your doors forever. I know I don’t frequent your establishment very often (well, since 1998), but it’s a shame all of my children that I don’t want to have will only see toy shopping through the screen of a computer and never know the joy of a Toys-R-Us trip.

Thank you for all of the memories.

And more importantly, the stuff.

toys-r-us-store

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Madame Zola’s Spirit Room

Just a few days ago, my twin brothers took the plunge into official adulthood and turned 30.

My mom, always one to acknowledge big events, secretly invited our whole family to Richmond to surprise my brothers on their birthday. But she wanted to come up with something more exciting than the usual dinner and gifts and cake and ice cream.

So she came up with the idea to try an “Escape Room.” They’ve been popping up everywhere, and who better to try it with than your highly intelligent family?

(Completely unrelated sidenote: they read this blog).

We all met at the Martin’s next to Ravenchase Adventures to surprise the new 30-year-olds. Once they finally arrived and the “Oh, what! I had no idea you would be here!” was over, we all shuttled next door to our Escape Room destination.

We checked in and waited in the lounge for our room to be ready. The room we selected was called Madame Zola’s Spirit Room. Back in the 1892, Madame Zola, communicator of the dead, summoned a spirit of great evil to kill her lover’s mistress. The spirit, however, possessed great power and ended up killing them both. It became our job to free both Madame Zola and the mistress’s souls from the confines of the chamber.

So you know, just another Saturday.

Once we got there, they ushered us into the Room and gave instructions. Basically: try to find an alternative exit other than the one you came through, and don’t destroy our props. Also, there is a Ouija board in the middle of the room commanded by Madame Zola’s spirit that will answer your questions.

Okay good luck!

First, of course, we asked the Ouija board where to find the alternative exit. Tired of the same joke I’m sure, the person controlling the magnetic dial under the table (er, I mean, the spirit of Madam Zola) told us to search for the clues (you idiots).

So we set off. Throughout the allotted hour (which actually only took us 45 minutes because my family is incredibly smart), we solved puzzles, picked up keys, and put together word clues. We discovered that we needed to find five voodoo dolls to put on Satan’s altar (as you do). So we all worked in small teams or individually, unearthing keys to locked boxes and codes to safes to find our voodoo dolls.

Finally, with very little help from Madame Zola (listen, lady, we know that the clues are important), the secret passageway opened up and we were able to get out. My family members, if I haven’t mentioned it before, are very intellectually gifted (just a quick reminder to the aunts and uncles out there, Christmas is not that far away) and we were able to figure it out in a short amount of time.

They said our particular room has a 48% success rate. To be honest, I have a very hard time believing that only 48% of groups were able to decode all of the clues and puzzles that were not-so-secretly hidden. Unless the other 52% imbibed harder on the free cans of Yuengling than we did. Otherwise, I have to admit I think the company may be trying to make people feel smarter than other Escape Room consumers (which, by the way, my family is).

Even so, I thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns of the Escape Room and would definitely go back. It’s great for families, groups of friends, corporate events, or to show off how smart you are. And they even have rooms suited for double dates (or just four people who enjoy each other’s company platonically).

And the best part is, you don’t have to be as amazingly cunning and clever as my family. Although it certainly helps.