Escaping The Living Room: A Post Sponsored By Questburgh

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Questburgh (Pittsburgh, PA).

I often think I don’t do enough stuff with my kids. This is most likely because I do not, in fact, do enough stuff with my kids, but also, Facebook doesn’t help. I mean, you log in for five seconds and look, there goes one family rock climbing together; oh wow, those guys are skiing; these other ones at a sporting event or a ballet or making a craft. Whatever they’re doing, they’re making memories. As for me, I’m just trying to finish my library book before the digital loan expires.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I am boring. Which is sort of fine with me, because though I would like to add maybe a tiny bit of adventure to my life – for example I really would like to learn to ski –  for the most part I am happy with things as they are. So are my kids, at least as far as I can tell.

And yet, I often get that nagging sensation: I should do more with them. I should. I should. Should should should.

And so when Gino from Questburgh contacted me about an Escape Room quest for kids, I thought: PERFECT. It’s one hour. As in, they kick you out if you do not finish in sixty minutesIt’s not like an amusement park, which can last a full eight hours or more. It’s not like a craft which would involve hours of shopping and then more hours of anxious frustration and glue errors because I don’t know what I’m doing, when it comes to crafts. An escape room is nothing that requires huge amounts of preparation or even any particular level of physical fitness. SIGN US UP, I told Gino.

I’m sure some of you have done escape room challenges before and some of you have not. If you haven’t, I will tell you that it’s just like those “escape the room” apps you can get on your phone, except in real life. Life-size. With actual things to manipulate and investigate and scratch one’s head over.

I’m not going to describe the place in detail, because you can go to their website to find out whatever you want to know. I will tell you that I believe this is the only escape room in the Pittsburgh area that is suitable for kids. I went with a seven-, eight-, and nine-year-old and one other adult. Some – or actually, many – of the puzzles were a tiny bit difficult for kids of that age, and even quite honestly for kids of my own age. But since it’s a kid-geared adventure, we had plenty of assistance from the Questburgh staff, who watched us via video camera, answered questions, and offered suggestions when we were clearly at a loss. One suggestion aimed at me: “That might not go there. That might go somewhere else. NO THAT DOES NOT GO THERE.”

Despite the incompetence of the team member that was me, we made it to the treasure chest within 53 minutes. Or so they told us. It seemed longer than that to me and I wondered if they were just trying to not make us feel bad because they knew I was writing this. Either way, I always say, just shut up and take your wins where you can get them. Here’s a photo of the three kids at the end of the quest:

Note that smaller kids, or those that are more easily frightened, might be a little creeped out either by the general atmosphere (not that creepy, but you know how kids can be) or by some of the “pirate ship” accoutrements (fake rats, swords, a skeleton or two and so forth). Kids over 12 could probably be sent in with no adult accompaniment; under 12, I wouldn’t advise it, but you know your kids better than I do.

So, mission accomplished! I did something with my kids, we all had a good time, and the two siblings and their friend actually demonstrated a good deal of good-natured teamwork, as opposed to “But it’s my turn!” And “Mommy, he elbowed me in the eyeball!” All around I’d call it a win.

So, if you live in the Pittsburgh area and you’re sitting around some afternoon trying to think up some fun activity to do with your kids that you haven’t done a million times before, this might be exactly the escape you need.

Also, one last thing – I’m told they’ll have a party room ready sometime within the next few months. I can think of hardly anything better than locking a bunch of birthday-cake-fueled kids in a room for an hour while I wait in the lobby area, because, you know. I have library books to finish.

Bye, Mother.

So, Mummy.

That is what we called her: Mummy. As in, “can you take Mummy to her doctor appointment?” Or, “Mummy picked up a hitchhiker but she said it was okay because he was like, eighty.” We never called her Mom or Mommy, even when we were little kids. Sometime we said Mum, if we were talking to her as opposed to about her. Sometimes Ma, pronounced “Mah” and not “Maw.” My mother was not a “Maw.”

Here’s what happened. I saw her the day before she died, on a Wednesday. I could tell she wasn’t doing well but I did not realize she had less than 24 hours to live. She was in a wheelchair in the hall because she kept getting up and falling and this was their way of keeping an eye on her. I got my dad, from his side of the nursing home, and took him over to see her. Neither of them acknowledged the other. My dad was pretty silent that day and so was my mother. I tried to feed her some pureed peaches but after one spoonful, she shook her head and turned away. “No,” she said. That was the last word my mother ever said to me.

The next morning, a nurse called to tell me that my mother wasn’t doing well, and that I might want to get there.

“What does that mean, exactly?” I asked. “Should I call other people? Should they hurry?”

“Well, there’s no way to know, exactly,” said the nurse. “It could be hours. It could be days.”

“Could it be weeks?”

“No,” she said. “It will not be weeks.”

I got there at 9:55 in the morning, which I remember because Betty, my mother’s roommate, was getting ready to leave for a doctor appointment. “I don’t think she’s doing very well,” Betty told me, sadly. Someone had drawn the curtain between their two beds and when I looked, I saw that no, she wasn’t doing very well at all.

Betty’s daughter-in-law arrived to pick her up, and they left. I sat down in a chair near my mother’s bed and looked at her. She was asleep and never did wake up. I wasn’t sure what to do. I felt like I should hold her hand, but then that didn’t seem like something we would do. As a family, we tended more toward laughing at horrible things than gazing lovingly at each other while holding hands. In the end, I did what I always do: I got out my book and started to read.

My mother’s breathing was very visible. It was almost a gasp, every time, with four to five seconds in between each one. Every minute or so I’d look up at her, watching. She’d breathe. I’d count. She’d breathe again. Sometimes, when I looked up, it seemed like forever before she breathed again. My heart would clench up but then, gasp, there it was.

I didn’t know what I would do, if it really was days. Does a person just sit here? Camp out? Does a person change their clothes, in this situation? Brush their teeth? Would my mother just go on like this, gasping every five seconds, indefinitely? Did she know I was there? Did she know anything?

Her eyes were a little bit open and they looked completely blank. Not there. Still, I said some things to her anyway. I wanted her to know that she wasn’t all by herself and that I loved her. My mother inspired lots of feelings in lots of people and in my case, some of those feelings were sometimes murderous. But she also inspired a lot of laughter. Once, she told me she’d been feeding my dad lots of brown rice. Health food, for the man whose body was in tiptop shape while his mind was deteriorating to nothing. Not that I wanted him to die. But, there didn’t seem to be much point in feeding him super foods.

“So, yeah, I don’t get it,” I told her at the time. “Are we really trying to make Daddy more healthy? I mean, is that really, you know – necessary?”

“Oh! No,” my mother said. “No, I’m not trying to make him more healthy. I saw on the news that they’ve been finding arsenic in brown rice.”

“Oh, my God,” I said, and she laughed. Quite heartily.

“You do realize,” I told her, “That if you tell this to anyone else you will probably go to prison.”

She laughed and laughed. So did I. This was my mother.

She died somewhere between 11:20 and 11:25 that morning. I looked up, waited for her to breathe. I counted the seconds. She didn’t breathe. I stood up, put my hand on her chest, over her heart. There was nothing.

Later, my sister and niece and nephew and some aunts had come, and something funny happened. Something kind of inappropriate that I knew no one there would find amusing but that I equally knew my mother would. Oh, Mummy will think this is hilarious, I thought. And then remembered, we were all there because Mummy wasn’t.

Still, I’m hoping that somewhere on some plane of pure energy, she was laughing and laughing.

Even though I know she’s probably a little bit mad that I didn’t hold her hand. I don’t blame her. I think now, and will think forever, that I really, really should have held her hand.