Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Autumn in New Jersey

This past Sunday was spent shopping in a quaint Jersey town that gets a lot of tourists. It was a cool, breezy day in the Northeast, just right for saying "NO!" 50,000 times to Ryan.

We started the venture by eating at a diner. Which comes from the word "dine." Which was something that really had nothing to do with this establishment. When I asked for coffee and found part of a cracker wrapper floating in the cup after my second sip, we really should have bolted (like my mother suggested). But, no. We stuck it out, because, hey, when a place is overrun with cars and people are lined up out the door, it must be good, right? Wrong. It just means lots of people have lousy taste in food. To wit, Applebee's.

So we downed our "food" and then went out on the town. My mom said she saw a toy store in the town once before. Ryan heard "toy" and that became his obsession. We checked out arts & crafts stores that had candles for $100. We went to a little home decor/tchotke shop that had Halloween lanterns for $40 each. It's weird. I used to think of arts & crafts as some kind of hippie thing, where people would sell just enough of their wares to pay their share at the co-op or hostel. I either had a warped view of arts & crafts, or I'm hitting the wrong kind of arts & crafts places, or the hippies are now yuppies.

So we browsed. Cara got some sort of scarf/shrug thing. Ryan got jealous and amped up his toy store demand. We browsed in some more stores. Ryan declared that the store that had Halloween decorations, candy and teddy bears was boring. My mom tried to satiate him with some gum drops. He took one and then turned to me with a repulsed look on his face, the gum drop chewed up and hanging precariously off his tongue, and said, "I thdon't ike thith." They were spicy gum drops.

At this point, Ry felt pretty ripped off--no toy, bad candy. And Cara was flouncing her scarf all over the place, which just rubbed it in. So we decided to find the toy store. Only to find out that the toy store wasn't there anymore. My mom and I were developing nervous twitches, until we crossed the street and found a store that carried a winter hat with Ryan's name and trucks knitted into it. Ry was thrilled. We were relieved. Because, unless you have a four-year-old--much less one who learned to say "no fair" before he learned to say "Mom"-- you're constantly bracing for a fight, engaged in a battle of wills, or trying to explain that good things come to those who wait. Which means nothing to a four-year-old.

At this point, my mom and I needed refueling. We stopped at a tea house type restaurant. Which made up for the "lunch." After we walked out, we noticed a cute little candy store. It had all kinds of stuff in jars and barrels, from old-timey Sugar Daddies and Charleston Chews to Extreme War Heads and Nerds ropes. Smart store owners that they are, they put baskets up front. My kids each took one. Within 30 seconds, Cara's was half-full. I made them put most of the stuff back, including a $6 bag of Harry Potter jelly beans. Yet, in the end, I paid $13 for penny candy.

How many weeks left in the football season?!?

--Catherine Schetting Salfino

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