How to train your son as a Green Dragon shopper

When I was attending college in Lancaster, Pa., my friends and I never went to an Amish farm or visited the typical tourist attractions.

But we did discover the Green Dragon, an extensive indoor-outdoor market that is open every Friday and sells almost anything you could think of, and then a few things you’d never be able to imagine.

Yes, they are astro-turf bags.

After I graduated, I moved to Lebanon, Pa., just about a half-hour from Lancaster, and I visited the Green Dragon regularly, always with a friend or two from college.

When I met John and we shopped the Green Dragon together, I marveled at how he discovered things I had never noticed–collectible trains and old Hess trucks, a welcome mat made from used tires, and russet potato chips cooked in lard.

Last Friday I made plans to meet one of my close college friends for a Green Dragon trip. This time, though, I decided to bring Leo along with me. And my friend brought her son, too.

My friend was an employee at the college when I was a student, and her son was a baby then. Unbelievably, her son is about to begin his first year of college. My son is about to begin first grade. We knew they’d hit it off. They both love Legos and Star Wars and, as I learned Friday, Transformers.

I hadn’t been to the Green Dragon in about five years, and I wondered whether it would be different. It had changed in some ways. But in most ways it was the same place, a mixture of produce and baked good stands, along with cell phone covers and flags and Amish quilts and furniture and candles and candies and garden tools and birdhouses and…well…almost everything you can carry and some things you can’t.

Imagine an enormous flea market combined with a produce stand and bakery and I’m just barely scratching the surface.

Because I didn’t do a great job describing the Green Dragon, Leo wasn’t sure this was going to be the best day ever. Then we got there, and he realized they didn’t just sell fly swatters.

For the record, they do sell fly swatters. I have found several there.

The Green Dragon also sells toys.

Leo found a knock-off Ninjago Lego set from China and some used Transformers, including a 12-inch tall Optimus Prime. On the way home he said, “And look, Mama! It uses batteries!”

We managed to track down some of John’s favorite chips, though the rubber mat salesman was gone.

In our attempt not to let him feel left out, we bought a few toys for Daniel. But when we got home, Daniel quickly realized the best part of the day had nothing to do with the toys and everything to do with this amazing hero Leo had met–my friend’s son. For the past few days he has been quoted around the house as an expert on all things that are cool and interesting to 6-year-old boys.

It wasn’t exactly a trip down memory lane. It was more of a trip to create new memories with our boys.

Oh, and it was a trip to spend a little money on summer hats for our boys, a new wallet for me, and toys we never even knew we wanted.

Still, we may have to go again soon. I still can’t figure out why we walked past a sign for fried pie (how can frying improve something as delectable as pie?), and I may need an astro-turf purse after all.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.