My son will be born into a world without Toys R Us, and that blows my mind

Toys R Us is as good as dead. The once-dominant toy store chain has suffered steep sales declines and has struggled to pay its debt, leaving the company little choice but to close or sell all of its U.S. stores. More than 33,000 Toys R Us employees will soon be out of work.

The demise shouldn't be shocking to anyone who's been paying attention to the company's rapidly declining fortunes over the years. But it's still bittersweet for people who spent their childhoods longing to spend allowance or birthday money there. Or those who worked at a Toys R Us in high school or college. Or those who took their kids there, not only to shop but for the experience of leisurely strolling through a place designed to celebrate fun.

I happen to fit into all three of those categories, as I'm sure many people my age do, too.

When I was a kid, going to Toys R Us was a treat. Money was usually tight in my family, but when I had some in my pocket I made it a point to ask – no, beg – my mom or grandparents to drive me to Toys R Us so I could quickly turn that cash into action figure and video game gold. Even after I had supposedly grown out of the toy phase, my friends and I would spend some of our high school nights scouring the aisles for "Star Wars" figures. Darth Maul was especially hard to find.

A boy plays with a Stormtrooper toy from Star Wars at a Toys R Us store.
Getty Images
A boy plays with a Stormtrooper toy from Star Wars at a Toys R Us store.

Not long after that, I was sporting a blue button-up shirt and helping Toys R Us customers load Power Wheels and bicycles into their cars and trucks. I started working part-time at the Toys R Us in Hazlet, New Jersey, during my sophomore year of college in the fall of 2000. It was just before the seasonal rush, so I had a "real" position that would last beyond the chaos of Christmas. My fellow associates and I feasted on the extra hours during November and December — it was more money than I had ever made.

Toys R Us also offered a generous tuition-reimbursement program at the time. That extra cash helped me pay my rent for a month or two.

Things took a tougher turn when I ended up working at the Jersey City Toys R Us during my final year at college. Since the Jersey City area was much more densely populated than suburban Monmouth County, Black Friday and the holiday season were a nonstop onslaught. We felt like we were under siege, like we were defending a fortress in a "Lord of the Rings" movie.

On Christmas Eve 2002, my last one working at Toys R Us, I was tasked with blocking off the video game section as the store closed while dozens of customers remained inside. It was nearing 7 p.m., and my fellow employees and I wanted to get home to our families, too. A shopper accompanied by two tired and despondent-looking kids asked me to let her into the section, but I was strictly forbidden to do it, I told her. So I refused. "Thanks," she said. "Thanks for ruining Christmas."

Benji Calia enjoying a trip to Toys R Us in 2015
Mike Calia | CNBC
Benji Calia enjoying a trip to Toys R Us in 2015

Needless to say, I was burned out by Toys R Us for a few years after that, but I rediscovered the excitement once our son was old enough to go shopping with us. He is four years old now, and he often suggests that we spend chunks of our weekend time together at a Toys R Us, searching for Marvel and Star Wars toys. Usually, my wife and I comply because, let's face it, we're still suckers for cool toys even deep into our 30s, and we're making up for all the times our parents told us "no" when we pleaded to go toy shopping. You could say we grew up to be "Toys R Us kids."

Our son doesn't quite understand what it means that Toys R Us is closing down, but once our usual spots – Freehold and Hazlet, in particular – shut down, we imagine it will be a lot harder explaining to him that we can't go to Toys R Us anymore. Amazon, Target and Walmart sell toys, too, but, come on, they're no fun.

We have another boy on the way. He's due this summer. Out of precaution, since we knew the Toys R Us business was in trouble, my wife and I registered for a few items at Buy Buy Baby instead of Babies R Us, which is where we got most of the furniture and supplies for our first son. We'll also probably hit some of the liquidation sales while we can to stock up on baby stuff and toys, and we'll get used to no longer taking weekend jaunts to the stores.

But we can't escape this mind-blowing notion: Our new son will be born into a world without Toys R Us — a reality that was unthinkable for generations of kids young and old.

WATCH: Big, complicated effort for restarting Toys R Us after liquidation