We Visited a Zoo...and not our house at bedtime
Growing up I always wanted to visit the circus. I pestered my parents to take me mercilessly, always to be told no. First it was my brother Durward who was "too young and wouldn't remember the trip." Then the brother born after him, Eric who was "too young and wouldn't remember the trip." My first visit to the circus was post-college graduation.
Now, don't get me wrong, my parents took us on many adventures. I recently read a blog about the top 100 places to take your kids and checked off over half of that list thanks to the summer vacations we embarked upon each year. I've seen geysers, gargantuan rock carvings, petrified wood, the marvels of our nation's capital and nearly every battlefield fought on our soil in the war that pitted brother against brother. The circus, honestly paled in comparison.
However. As we prepared to welcome our third baby the notion of taking a trip to the zoo after her birth was presented and I heard myself say, "aren't our kids too young? Do you think they would remember it?" As the words left my mouth a decision was made and a date set. To the zoo we were headed.
San Antonio boasts a world class zoo including a butterfly exhibit, an aquarium, and is less than 70 miles from our house. Being braver than we are smart, it was decided that we would take off on a Thursday, spend two nights in a hotel with an option to see the zoo on Friday or Saturday as Texas weather can be bipolar. Joshua suggested a scenic route that included a stop at his favorite Texas brewery (Real Ale) and afforded us a scrumptious lunch at a local cafe (lavender lemonade!).
A massive thunderstorm rolled through Thursday evening, but on Friday the precipitation had ended. The remaining clouds promised a cooler, albeit muggier, zoo visit than a sunny Saturday - we were good to go. Magically transportive, we traveled from the savannah of Africa to the jungles of India, through the wilds of America and found ourselves in awe of fellow creatures.
Our adventure started at the local library where we read about zoo trips, zoo animals, and hop-skip-a-roo imitate animals at the zoo. This exposure brought certain animals top to mind for Kenzie - she desperately wanted to see a hippopotamus. Judah was interested in the lion...primarily so he could practice his roar every time he was asked, "what animal do you want to see at the zoo?" To Kenzie's delight, we saw hippos - and watched them move about, surface for air, and be nibbled on by numerous fish. To Judah's joy we experienced the majesty of a lion's roar, from the early rumbling coughs to a definitively louder expression than Judah's imitation.
We took our baby to the zoo, and were pleased to see multiple baby animals. A Mama Gibbon monkey perched high on her ledge, hugging an infant close to her chest. Four capricious Nubian Ibex kids chased one another across nearly sheer rock walls while their mother watched, and ate, placidly. Ducks and ducklings glided effortlessly across water features. Spring was evident at the zoo, including our lovely Olivia.
Halfway through our zoo trip Joshua's cousin and her two elementary age girls joined us. They enjoyed our little children almost as much as they marveled at the zoo animals. "Let's see the rhino!" "Look, the elephant is eating!" "Can you find the tiny yellow frog? There!" And then they offered to let Kenzie use their extra carousel pass. It was toward the end of our day. Judah was asleep on Joshua's shoulder. Kenz was starting to lose steam, but we agreed to the ride and set off.
She had no paradigm for 'carousel'. As we waited in line for our turn I asked what animal she wanted to ride - giving her a few options: leopard, zebra, elephant, hippo. Her quizzical look betrayed her confusion but she answered confidently, "leopard." We circled the carousel quickly and found a leopard. Perched high, she clung to the pole and looked at me with slight confusion. As the gears began to rumble I realized how ill-prepared this 3 yr-old was for her first "amusement park ride." Quickly I explained that the animals would begin moving around as well as up and down. "Are you excited?" The leopard descended. She grinned back at me, not the playful, studied smile she's perfected for the camera but a genuine grin full of pure delight. She embraced every moment.
This memory of an initial carousel ride may not stick with Kenzie, but I will never forget. She was silent in her delight, entranced by the motion, sound, and her participation in it. Our children enjoyed this trip, but in reality it was for us, their parents. A blessing. Hopefully a beginning. To many more family trips.