Winter at the Zoo
I took the kids to the zoo the other day.
It was sunny outside and very windy, but it was about 55 degrees even with the ice cold wind.
We wore flip flops. Except for Rosie, who is ever more practical.
We have a membership to the zoo because it’s only about 40 minutes from our house, and it’s such a huge zoo you can go twenty times and still not get bored. We’d never been in the winter before though.
We got there and it was empty. One tiny gate was open to go through. Even the parking booth was closed for the winter.
It was like a ghost town inside. Everything was closed. The gift shops were closed. The ice cream stands, the carousel, the Africa exhibit, even the playground–they were all boarded up and closed down.
Eerie, like we weren’t supposed to be there. We saw a few other mothers with kids wandering around. Seriously maybe two other families, that’s it in the entire zoo.
But the Antarctic exhibit was still open, of course! The penguins were nesting, but we could see them through a little window. Since there was no one there we could look as long as we wanted. A zoo worker was hand feeding them fish inside of their little dog crate nests.
Ada has a special thing for penguins. She is obsessed. She loved seeing them up close and being fed. Every other time we’ve been there the penguins have been swimming, and you can get really close to them there however there’s usually tons of people in the way.
We also went in the aquarium, which is inside. Usually it’s jam packed. This time there were a few moms and toddlers in there, and a random Japanese couple. That was it! The station where you get to touch creatures was closed, and the scuba diver person was diving in the tank for shows again until March, but the fish were all still swimming!
The kids spent forever looking at all of the intricate fish details without any crowds pushing them along. It was great! We noticed things we’d never seen before–details in the live coral reef, spotted eels popping up from the sand, baby fish.
From there we went to see the manatees. Nobody else was in there except a docent, who told us the history of the main manatee who lives at the zoo forever due to her health issues. Apparently they rotate out other manatees as they need rehabilitating. Once they’re healthy they return them to the ocean. She told us some cute stories about how the main zoo manatee welcomes and mothers new manatees by bringing them food and stuff. So sweet!
They fed the big sea turtle while we were standing there. He had a bunch of romaine lettuce that he was eating right up next to the glass. Turtles are Henry’s favorite thing, so he was pretty happy. I have never seen a creature eat so painstakingly slow. Hah!
The alligator exhibit was closed. How do they catch him? And where do they hide him in winter!?
My kids are so weird. In the best way.
After that we saw the nocturnal Australia exhibit. It’s very dark in the building, since they want it to be nighttime for the animals to stay awake. Not another soul was in there. It was actually pretty creepy. The kids were scared!
Nocturnal animals were making all kinds of creepy noises, we could just barely see ourselves in the dark, and it was very warm inside there.
The tree kangaroo was running up and down his tree display, but he was running forward up the tree and backwards down the tree. There was a bird that looked like an owl, but it was something else. I forgot the name Tawny something I think. He was watching us in that way birds do, following with his eyes then tilting his head and turning it in an abnormally flexible circle to follow us with his gaze. Since we were the only things moving past him he was staring us down. Henry screamed.
Then there were lemurs, and a huge porcupine! And some kind of tree glider things…We spent a very long time in there observing all of the tiny details.
We also went to the tropical bird exhibit, where we disturbed an elderly lady in there with a tiny notebook and binoculars. I think she also wanted to be the only person at the zoo.
A Magpie Goose was poking his head up just far enough to see over the threshold with one beady orange eye and honking indignantly at us, demanding treats and attention. He reminded me so much of our ducks. We miss them badly. Rosie almost cried.
After that a park worker came and told us the zoo was closing. I guess it closes at 4 p.m. during the winter. I had no idea. At least there weren’t any crowds to battle when walking back to the car…
We saw a sign saying that the playground re-opens in March. We’ll definitely go back then. The play ground is huge and pretty cool. I love being there when it’s not packed with other people.
Of course I kept thinking about Igor at the zoo, because he loves going there.
I feel physically ill over not hosting him this summer. But at the same time I keep thinking–we were able to go to the zoo and have fun. Look at the animals without him moaning loudly to monopolize the whole trip. Without him begging for ice cream and then throwing it away and staring at me, then demanding I buy him more. Without him moaning in the car and causing trouble to control the car ride.
I think of how we would be facing the entire summer filled with the painful attempts to control everything we try and do. Winter is long and dreary. Summer is like a reward–my favorite time of year, so much fun stuff to do and enjoy, especially now that I don’t have Giardia! Last summer we were barely able to leave the house because Igor refused to cooperate and sabotaged everything we tried to do by moaning at the top of his lungs, refusing to get in or out of the car, refusing to get dressed, or behaving badly.
I just cannot face another summer of that.
I love him, but I can’t do it.
If therapy was an option, if we had help, then maybe. But just on our own for twelve long weeks of RAD-like behaviors?
No. Four weeks at Christmas is ok, we don’t go that many places and Tyler is home a lot. But all summer is too much.
I just don’t want to hurt him. I know he will be upset to find out he isn’t coming here this summer. My other kids deserve to have summer fun too though.
I’m looking forward to meeting Vladik. I really think (hope!) it will be a healing experience. His host mom from last winter says he adores animals and takes time to earn their trust, rather than murder them while we’re watching. Sigh.
And look at him. LOOK AT HIM!