I know..I know, I have been rambling on and on about our vacation and it's time to start writing about other things, but if you'll indulge me in this one last story I don't think you will regret it.
It has become a tradition of ours to stop for a meal at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and Restaurant at least once when we are driving either to or from vacation. The boys just love Cracker Barrel. From the oversized checker games and rocking chairs on the porch to the ole American country-type gizmos and doo-dads that supply this restaurant's atmosphere and decor to the breakfast all day option and the little individual-sized bottles of warm maple syrup, this place was just made to amuse travel-weary little boys. The good thing, too, is that the boys are usually so happy to be there that they behave perfectly well for us the whole time.
The only problem with this "everybody wins" situation is the "Old Country Store" part of the deal. In the lobby of the Cracker Barrel is an amazing array of old fashioned toys, games, and candy for sale. There are swirly lollipops the size of your head, and clear bins of jelly beans, candies, and chocolates in the old-fashioned style. In the aisles are Slinkys and Weazel Balls, sock monkeys and Magnetic Wooly Willies. Interspersed with all these exciting attractions are items for the grownups, too. There are wine glasses and pottery, beautiful statues and figurines as well as quilts and sweaters and candles and so I am always nervous letting the boys loose to see all that they can see.
On the way to Cape Cod, we stopped at a Cracker Barrel in Providence, R.I. After a game of checkers on the porch we headed into the lobby. Almost immediately the boys discovered a new toy: A toucan perched on a plastic branch that would repeat anything you said in a voice that sounded very much like your own, but somewhat squawkier.
"Polly Wanna Cracker," Simeon said and the toucan repeated it twice in a Simeon/toucan voice. So exciting! The boys were thrilled and they took turns making the toucan say all sorts of silly of things until they were all laughing and giggling so loudly that the toucan was doing nothing but giggling and laughing, too, and doubling the noise level. It took all my patience to calmly tear the boys away from their newly-found, fine, feathered friend and usher them to our table.
After the meal, while we were making trips to the bathroom and paying the bill, I did all I could to steer the boys away from the toucan and in the direction of other toys. "Look at this snow globe," I said and they seemed half interested.
It was my turn to use the bathroom and when I returned I found only Jeremy and the two littlest boys by the snow globe. 'Where are the boys?' I began to ask but was interrupted by the unmistakable sound of a toucan belching... and then belching again.
I was so embarrassed and so out of patience, I marched up to the boys unthinkingly and said, "Stop it. You are done here. Go to the door." And then I immediately regretted it.
"STOP IT," snapped the toucan in a tone much harsher than one I had used (or so I thought) "YOU ARE DONE HERE," he scolded, "GooOOOoo to the door." (Did I really drag out the word 'go' so long?) As I hurried the boys to the door the toucan repeated my words one last time for all to hear and I saw more than a few pairs of eyes looking at the toucan and then over at us...sigh. Very humbling.
The good news is that we took advantage of Cracker Barrel's books on tape loan program for the first time and got this wonderful treasure. "Gone Away Lake" by Elizabeth Enright (1957 Newbery Honor Book) is a delightful and entertaining tale for grade levels 3-6. The story is beautifully written with rich language, displays an intimate understanding of children, and does not fail to entertain the adult reader/listener as well. It made for a very peaceful rest-of-the-ride experience.