|Needs a polish|
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If we're being brutally honest, this place - The Big Apple - pretty much defines kitschy. Situated hard on the side of Canada's busiest highway, the 401, it's a familiar sight whenever we drive to and from Montreal. Most of the time we just sail on past with a perfunctory wave out the window. When they were younger, the kids called it "The Big Red Apple", and the name has stuck ever since.
We had a bit of extra time on this trip, so we stopped knowing full well what awaited us. The kitsch - courtesy of a newly expanded gift shop filled with enough maple leaf-stamped Made in China merchandise to kill a Mountie - almost gave me a rash. We avoided the apple pie because, well, the ones on display looked kinda sad. The entire complex, built haphazardly over the years as one fad - petting zoo - was overtaken by another - mini golf - before it, too, became yesterday's news (you had to ask: go karts.)
We got here when there were no tourist busses in the parking lot, so the place was even emptier than usual. Which made it even sadder. The coup de grace? The bathrooms were pretty rank, which is pretty much my kiss of death: I just can't tolerate that kind of messiness when I'm on the road.
It was almost too easy to be cynical. But as I watched our little people explore this bizarro place and followed them around as they chattered to themselves about how bizarro it was, my sentiment changed. They were being their articulate, curious and downright funny selves as they took deliberately touristy pictures, scrambled up the scary stairs inside the apple and posed for pictures in front of the 70s-era After School Special-type edumacational posters plastered around the interior. It soon became about them and not about this place. I rather enjoyed that shift in perspective.
As we filled up the car and headed back out to the highway, we all agreed that it made sense to put this place permanently on the once-upon-a-time list. Just like Sesame Street or some other icon of their childhood, it just didn't feel the same when viewed under the harsh light of adolescence. The real world made that gigantic apple seem just a little bit past its prime. Okay, a lot past its prime. Still, sometimes you just need to drop in one last time before you turn the page on another chapter in your growing family's life.
Your turn: Do you remember a roadside icon of your own childhood?