To all the Webkinz I loved before: A eulogy

Clyde in the fashion show Creative Commons/THE REVIEW
A clydesdale Webkinz participates in a fashion show.

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Before I had Netflix and before I had friends, I had one thing that was always there for me: my Webkinz. Propped up on a shelf next to my bed, there were three of them in all — a pink pony named Shine, a hippo named Roberta and a springer spaniel who must have not been all that important to me because now, nearly a decade later, his name escapes me.

Each of my Webkinz were practically an investment, which made them all the more important to me. Back in the murky, strange days of 2009 — a weird year where I wore so many Silly Bandz that I got sent to the nurse for cutting off my circulation, and I shopped exclusively at Justice — Webkinz were an expensive commodity. For my birthdays and for Christmas, I incessantly annoyed my parents, grandparents, cousins and friends into forking over $25 for a new virtual pet to add to my collection.

As a fairly apathetic, irresponsible kid who couldn’t even be trusted to keep fish as pets, having Webkinz introduced a new kind of responsibility that I had never before experienced. It was exciting; for once, I, a 9-year-old girl, was experiencing the level of responsibility that I associated with someone nearly quadruple my age.

I fed my Webkinz, I clothed them, I won them stacks and stacks on KinzCash while playing Bananza and Polar Plunge. I decorated all of their rooms in the princess theme (of course). I cooked absurd meals in the small “kitchen” that was in my pets’ rooms. My Webkinz had more friends online than I had in real life (it was actually a pretty easy feat to accomplish) and they hung out regularly. I even threw parties using the party packs; today, all the parties I have been to at the ripe age of 19 pale in comparison to these Webkinz parties. (It was truly a wild time).

I — dare I say it — unconditionally loved my Webkinz.

Eventually, the years went by and I got off of Webkinz and onto other bullshit. Middle school came and went, high school came and went, my Webkinz came into my life and left. One ended up in Goodwill, one ended up in the garbage, another in the depths of my basement. As I hung out with an eternally rotating list of people throughout high school and college, cycled through so many emotions and went through the lows and highs that often accompany being a dramatic, impulsive teenager, it began to occur to me that the most stability I had ever experienced in my life was Webkinz.

wgardenmaze Creative Commons/THE REVIEW
A reindeer Webkinz proudly looms over his winter garden.

Every day after school, I had logged on at 4 p.m. without fail. I took care of them: feeding them, clothing them and playing games with them. Now, in a constant state of erratic instability with a desire to never do the same thing twice, I found myself craving the familiar current of owning my Webkinz.

It was partially a joke and partially a strange, nostalgic desire to recreate the stability of my youth, but a few weeks shy of being 19, I purchased my first Webkinz in nearly a decade.

Things were different this time. Instead of the usual excitement that had accompanied purchasing a Webkinz, it was an ironic, almost sad action: My sister and I went to a department store, found one wedged in the back of a shelf and I bought it for $5. He was a black poodle; I named him Boolenciaga . (I thought I was being clever).

When I logged on for the first time, I was surprised to see that almost everything had changed. Many of the games I had loved and played for endless hours as a kid were now exclusive and for deluxe members only. (In other words, you had to pay for them.) The rooms were completely changed, and there was little that you could do without paying actual money. Treading around the games and the attractions was like wandering through an ancient, decrepit ruin: The former glory of Webkinz World had crumbled.

Will I ever feel the stability that Webkinz world gave 9-year-old me? I honestly don’t know. All I know is that I miss this relic from my past, this experience that I will never be able to recreate — a feature that makes it all the more valuable.

And so, I guess, this is a thank-you note to Webkinz, for stability and a sense of purpose and some good, unabashed and completely pure fun. But it’s also a eulogy — a eulogy to a feeling and a place and a time that I’ll never get back.

A eulogy — to all the Webkinz I loved before.

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