Penny Candy at the General Store

Remember moving slowly down the row of shelves with your small brown paper bag, eyeballing each bin of candy, doing your own math, mouth watering as you thought about each little treasure? Candy necklaces, Ring Pops, Fun Dip, Sweet tarts, long strips of paper with Dots, lemon drops, gummy fish, BB Bats, bags of Pop Rocks, malt balls, gumdrops, jawbreakers and more.

How, when they brought such joy, did Penny Candy Stores lose their place in our communities? Why do we only find them now in quaint beach villages where we vacation?

Most repeat visitors on Cape Cod have been to Candy Manor in Chatham or the Brewster General Store, where the most crowded aisle is filled with children shouting out prices to their parents, who carry a stub of a pencil and a strip of paper to keep track. The older kids do it themselves. The General Store is one of the few places where the honor system prevails out of necessity. It would take far too long to tally the treats at the register, and half of the candy would be gone before the many kids got through the line.

“Fifteen cents! Sixty cents! One dollar and twenty-five cents!”

The name “penny candy” certainly used to be more valid. But the happiness the process brings to kids remains the same.

Before our trip this year, the boys all began their annual litany of things they wanted to do as soon as we got there. Batting cages, Cobies (the roadside ice cream shack that sells ice cream in MLB baseball caps), and of course, the General Store.

As we pulled into the driveway that first afternoon, the first question they asked was “when can we go to the General Store?”

Every day we didn’t go during the two weeks meant a negotiation regarding when we would go again.

One afternoon after spending the entire day on the beach, my eight year old whined that we had not gone on “an adventure” that day.

“The beach was an adventure,” I said. “We floated on tubes, built a sandcastle, played football…”

“That’s not an adventure,” he pouted.

“Well, what adventure do you want to go on then?”

His eyes lit up and he grinned, “Can we go to the General Store?”

It’s just candy. They can get the same candy at home. But my eight year old got it perfectly. Perusing a long aisle of brightly colored treats with other excited kids, picking out individual pieces of your all-time favorites, putting them into a small bag that seems created just for Penny Candy, and doing your own math – that’s an adventure. That’s what makes the penny candy store of old so great.


Spring Break

Since we played hookie from school two weeks prior to Spring Break, we did not join the minions who just flooded the beaches of Florida and Mexico, San Diego and Nassau. We stayed home, playing host to my sisters, with a short stint at a friend’s condo in the mountains. It was a great week full of surprisingly achievements.

• We went tubing, and despite clenched teeth on our initial run, the four year old and I conquered our fears and did it again…and again and again. I claim Mother of the Year for that one.

• The older boys snow-mobiled for the first time.

• The nine year old overcame his fear of his bike after a fall last summer. In fact, he was out riding again before school this morning.

• The eight year old finally picked up speed on his scooter, and actually glides now.

• They each read for more than 500 minutes, well on their way to the 2012 minutes they need before the end of the school year.

• The nine year old started his next report ahead of time.

• The four year old was the first in the family to do a flip on the bungee-jumping trampoline and is poised to ride a two-wheeler.

• We took advantage of the beautiful weather and, pretending it was summer, met all the neighbors outside for Happy Hour.

And then, we woke up the next morning to school and two days of snow.

Harbour Island, Bahamas: Day 2

Pink Sand

Harbour Island has the best sand in which I’ve ever had the luxury of wiggling my toes. It is very pale pink, like the inside of a conch shell crushed into millions of pieces, and its color contrasts with the clear blue turquoise waters of the Caribbean. It feels like you’ve stepped into a bed of silk sheets — sand so soft, no grain distinguishable from another.

As you wade into the wild March surf,, your feet continue to be spoiled by a beach with no shells or rocks. Very few seagulls race the waves. And your spot in the sand is truly yours. Quiet except for the wind and waves. A few people walking down the sand, contemplating life or breathing in the fresh sea air.

Tonight we celebrated a late afternoon Happy Hour at the Blue Bar at the Pink Sands Resort. A Goombay Smash, a glass of wine, lemonades for the kids and a view of the beach, where the sand seems even more pink and the sea even bluer. The Resort is as high-class as they come, the restaurant and open-air lobby absolutely gorgeous. The staff always welcoming. But since we come to the island only for this very special beach, it doesn’t matter where you sleep or eat — only that you have the chance to wiggle your toes in soft, pink sand.

Harbour Island, Bahamas: Day 1

It seems odd that the first fruity rum drink many people have on a visit to islands like the Bahamas is handed to them in the airport. Now, Nassau Airport is a work in progress. It is small and dark, but a large glass wing is in the process of being built. Currently, to transfer from your U.S. flight to a “domestic” leg to one of the smaller Bahamas islands, you walk through a makeshift hallway through or around the hard hat zone. As you come through customs, you might be handed a rum drink in a plastic cup. When you get to the “domestic” waiting area, you can order a Kalik at a 4-person, indoor bar with no windows. Bad rum in the pit of an airport may calm your nerves while you wait impatiently for your bags, but why waste your first taste of island life on an airport drink in a dixie cup?!

You’ve been counting the days for months, if not years. You’ve been sitting at your cubicle at work anticipating drinking a Yellowbird or Pina Colada or Bahama Mama while watching the sun set on the beach. And you settle for cheap rum at the airport! You have, at most, an hour to go. Wait. Be patient. Enjoy the last bit of anticipation before your beach vacation really begins.

And then, when your toes are wiggling in the sand, the sea breeze is blowing gently at your back, and the sun approaches the horizon, igniting an explosion of pinks and purples in the sky….then, and only then, order your drink.

It will be well worth the wait.

Signing off from my beach vacation on Harbour Island….Yellowbird. Yellowbird.