My sons are eleven and six now and they probably have, for all intents and purposes, grown out of visiting the local zoo. Their father and I, however, cling to their childhoods with a white knuckle grip and make them visit Hogle Zoo with us every spring.
And yes, I make them pose for pics too…but it doesn’t look like they mind too much.
Call me crazy, accuse me of smothering, roll your eyes a little-no matter. I have plenty of reasons to keep this going and those reasons are plentiful enough to last me up until Mason is about 32.
I can defend myself. First and foremost, I am a bit OCD when it comes to family traditions. The times we’ve had together are my most prized of possessions. This is not to say I haven’t yelled, that there haven’t been times I wondered if I’d survive their upbringing, it just means the good has by far outweighed the bad. Traditions to me are markers of those meaningful times and have become the buoys that keep us afloat when life becomes weighted by the certain storms that will inevitably pass through our horizons.
Speaking of storms, the Utah winters can get a little old to put it mildly. By the time March is over you aren’t sure if the world is still capable of defrosting. You can’t remember what color the cushions on your patio furniture are because you haven’t been able to sit on them for six or seven months. When April finally rolls around, the itch to get outside is unbearable.
Our Springtime visit to the zoo has become a reason to break out of the house and into the brisk air of the season. We soak up the shallow spring light while we watch the elephants lumber across the mud soaked ground. We laugh as monkeys leap from their swings, eying us with suspicion. We visit the tortoise we’ve seen grow from a tiny saucer with legs, into the giant boulder he is today.
I remember when Mason was just about a year old and we took our first trip to the zoo with Uncle Scott and Aunt Jana. Mason only had one word for all of animalkind in his budding vocabulary at the time-a one syllable sweet little word, “dog”, pronounced “gog”. I can still see him pointing to the sheep from his seat on the little red train, yelling “gog, gog!” It was this visit that I first pointed out to him that giraffes have blue tongues.
Getting out of the house for a few hours fosters some much-needed brother bonding time as well.
They do fight, but I know they love each other. I remind them often that they are each others anchor in life.
I hope that when they are 32 or so and they have their own families, or are living whatever dream they have for their own lives, they look back and say things like, “remember when Mom and Dad used to take us to the Zoo…”.
We have a full summer ahead, filled with camping trips, outdoor adventures in Zion National Park, days at Lagoon Amusement Park, balmy evenings at the baseball stadium. I can’t wait for the sunny days, bellies full of cotton candy and hotdogs, sunburns, and beach towels. If only there were more summers of childhood than there are…they are so precious and few.
May you find your own ways to relish the season, from Spring’s first hello to Summer’s long, dog days. Enjoy and celebrate these times, make them last and stay up late, for winter is always ahead.