We were headed to the Children’s Zoo. I wanted to see majestic lions and elegant giraffes. I wanted to see patient parents point to a monkey in a tree over and over again, as their little charges repeated, “Where? Where? I don’t see him.” I wanted my soda served in a bucket with a zoo logo on it. I was in a sentimental mood.
My husband insisted the zoo was closed, had been for decades. “That can’t be,” I said. “I drive by all the time and the parking lot is full.”
“Well I’ve seen facebook posts with children in bear cages pretending to look glum,” he countered. “Bill Bluehouse said it was abandoned.” Bill Bluehouse is what we called our neighbor, who lived in the blue house. He’d lived here forever and knew everything.
“Huh. Maybe they have rare children from an exotic land, on display,” I joked. “But truly, that’s odd, because I’ve also seen ads for evening zoo time and holiday light spectaculars,” I said. I was sure the zoo was a going concern. “Well, we’ll go see. If it’s closed, we can always just explore around there.” We were new to the area.
When we arrived on a sunny hot Sunday, as you’d expect, the parking lot was full of mini-vans and families setting up strollers and getting little children out of their car seats. We roamed a long while before we could even find a parking space. I didn’t even say “I told you so.”
Finally, we parked, found our sunglasses, put on sunscreen, and began, like everyone else, to head toward the big sign “Children’s Zoo.”
At the gate, the guard asked, “And who are you checking in?” We were confused.
“Just ourselves, I guess,” my husband answered.
“Spectators then?” the guard inquired with a smile.
“What else?” my husband joked back. “Is there an interactive element available? Could my wife pick nits? Could I swing from tree to tree?” He looked to me for a laugh. I leaned in.
“Only with the children you’re related to. Do you have children, err, grandchildren checked in at this time?” he asked. His hand was poised helpfully above the keyboard to a search for the names we might provide.
“No, we’re alone.” He answered. “Just two.”
“Okay then,” he handed us tickets and a map. “Welcome to the Children’s Zoo. Toddlers and babies are immediately to your right. You can hold the babies, sir, you might like that part. If you follow the path all the way around, you’ll find girls and boys and finally teenagers, male, female and mixed. Have a nice day.”
I guess we were both right. The zoo was abandoned years ago, and it was a going concern. We heard the parents behind us talking to their six-year-old. “We’ll be back at 9am tomorrow. Behave for the zookeepers. Careful when you climb on the rocks.” The girl was put inside a brightly colored cage on a train, and the parents rushed back to their now empty minivan, off for a day of adult fun, presumably.
As we turned to leave, a sign caught my eye. “Please Don’t Feed the Children. They’ve had Enough Cheetos for one day.”