The middle boy had already decided on his souvenir. Decided before he even stepped foot outside the airport doors when he saw a large, taxidermied crocodile head. A quick check of the white price tag on the bottom confirmed that it was within his grasp. A wide grin spread over his face, revealing the lone dimple that I love.
As we towed our suitcases and headed for the door, I knew that the return trip through the airport on our way home would be forefront in his mind for the next five days.
I shadowed the other two through the hotel gift shop, always nervously mindful of breakables in little hands. The woman at the cash register made friendly chit-chat as she kept a sharp eye on her wares, as well. Eager to get back and shower the sand and salt from my body, I made helpful suggestions. Pointed out things that I knew they would love.
Each in their turn, they smiled, inspected, and then politely rejected each item I offered. They did not reach out with grabby hands for cheap, plastic toys. There was no whining and pleading for everything in sight. No rough examinations of delicate glass pieces.
They simply shopped, content.
Finally, the perfect mementos were selected and we approached the cash register to pay. The baby girl had (of course) chosen yet another stuffed animal to add to her already too-vast collection, and a pretty notebook depicting the very beach scene we were loathe to leave in the morning.
The oldest boy took a longer time deciding and chose a large starfish and a conch shell - one big enough that we could take the ocean home with us. He hesitantly lifted a third item up, seeking my approval and pleading with his eyes. When I glanced down and saw the title of the book, I knew I would buy it for him - no matter the cost.
My motherly pride practically spilling out of my heart at the decorum and class displayed by my children in a store full of toys and breakables, I could barely see through the tears to sign for the purchase.
The saleswoman had noticed it all, too. She praised me for having such polite, thoughtful children. She complimented their restraint and good manners - remarking that she had not ever seen such calm and unspoiled children in her store in the 10 years she had managed it.
As we walked out, purchases in hand, I looked at the three little heads - eagerly bent over each others bags examining the spoils - and I had to agree with her.
I think they are pretty freaking fantastic myself.