It started with a text. An innocent text from CDubs’s grandmother, “Can I see him Sunday night for dinner to celebrate his birthday?”
Of course! I mean look at how much my boy loves his Mimi:
Since it’s dinner and we live 2hrs 30min away from one another, a halfway meeting place would be the place to meet. So I start looking, he likes Chick-fil-A, he like McDonalds, he would eat at any restaurant that allows you to liberally coat the menu items in ketchup… so to him anywhere is acceptable… and then I get the text.
Oh dear Lord. I imagined the few times I went to Chuck E. Cheese’s as a child. I remember bad pizza, and there was not enough of it. We would eat a slice, maybe there was enough to have two and have to fill up on soda. We would wander around with 8 or so tokens to pick the games we were to enjoy for the next two hours as my mother sat at a booth and read, and forgot about our existence.
We would have a good time with what we had, sometimes pooling our tokens to try to win big and turn in our tickets for prizes that just weren’t enough to go around.
Then there were the bullies. These were kids that weren’t really kids who gamed and stayed at choice machines in order to win big at the prizes. They were your gambling addicts in your preteen to late teen years, not quite old enough to gamble but obviously ready to. They would let you wait around forever then go to the bathroom, and come back and shove you off their machine no matter if you were done with your turn or not. There were other older kids just being general jerks trying to steal tokens or money, but they left us alone.
So you see, Chuck E Cheese was not a gleaming triumphant memory of glorious winnings that exemplified the rodent’s good name. It was not an arcade of wonders or a great place to meet other kids. This was a grubby back alley where we could wander until our feet hurt and we got stomachaches from too much caffeine.
(That’s pretty much how I remember it)
Present day, I’m imagining this early to mid 90’s Chuck E Cheese Hell and I’m trying to imagine CDubs playing PackMan or that hard rubber ball bowling game (the one with the rings). I’m failing.
I’m remembering finger puppets and pencils and winning 4 tickets and sticky unattended children and I’m like, what fresh hell will this be? How can I save this? A grandmother’s love can only fix so much, I don’t know if I can bring a 4 year old back from the edge of severe disappointment.
But my mother in law is such a nice lady. She will do anything for anybody. She literally saves people’s lives everyday (in the ER).
She sounds so happy about this choice and is all keyed up and I’m like… okay. It’s been like 20 years. Surely something’s changed. So I google the establishment….
Okay, it’s a mixed bag. It will be fine.It will.Yes.There shouldn’t be thatmany kids on a Sunday.He’ll get to play… it will be fun!Yes.So we tell him about it and I go on YouTube and find a Chuck E Cheese video and play it for him. Of course, in the 3rd frame there is a huge monster truck ride and now he is just stoked.Crap, I know not every establishment is the same, there probably isn’t going to be a monster truck… but now he’s ready. He wants to ride that truck. And I set him up with unrealistic expectations. Thanks YouTube. Thanks. Great job mom.
Look how excited he is!
But it’s too late. It’s time to go and we’re in the car and he’s talking nonstop about rides and trucks and how he’s going to play and ….I’m already envisioning the worst, how can I make up for the worst case scenario here?
We pull up and we get out and I see the building and we hold hands across the parking lot and get inside. We get stamped on the hands like we are in some kiddie night club with black light stamps and nothing to legally enhance our experience and we order pizza….
And the pizza was actually really good. I mean really.
My son ate two and a half slices. We had three slices left over. They gave my kid 90 tokens. 90! I could have been the queen of the back alley with that many tokens. I admit, I had an extra 20 bucks on me just to buy more tokens cause surely… but 90!?
And Mimi brought cute little cupcakes and Chuck E Cheese was still an apathetic teenager in a mouse suit, bless them, but CDubs got a high five!
He had such a good time playing all the games. He wanted those tickets:
And he got enough tickets to get himself a ‘Mingo kooshball thing and a Reptar key chain and he was good. He was happy. So was Mimi*:
And Mommy got the freak over her aversion to Chuck E. Cheese.
It’s not such a bad place after all.