Weekends are a particular challenge, especially with the normally helpful Husbot on the road so much. Each day is a fourteen hour aerobics class with emotional trauma thrown in. At least I don’t have to do it in front of a full-length mirror and listen to Billy Joel. But by Sunday night–hell, by Saturday afternoon, I can feel the burn.
I devise plans to keep the Midgets from climbing the shelves. The zoo is a particular favorite. Not everyone does, but I like zoos. They’ve come a long way since I was five feeling sorry for the giraffes in Central Park staring out over iron rails in Central Park.
No matter how you feel about zoos, the thing about them is that they are not virtual and I am a fan of not virtual. You can hear the ear-splitting shrieks of the macaws and smell from the petting pen the reminder that most animals are just a cute way to transform vegetation back into compost. You can see that each creature needs to be taken care of, from jaguars to ibises, even if that just means leaving them alone.
In 1975, the Wildlife World Zoo, ten minutes up the road, opened as a small breeding zoo that had a knack for keeping endangered creatures alive, convincing them to have sex, and raising their healthy progeny. Since then, the unprepossessing safari-themed complex, rising dustily from acres of rose fields just outside the sound contour of Luke Air Force Base, has grown to include an aquarium with penguins and sharks and crocodiles.
Pushing a stroller through the threshold of the aquarium–from the baking heat punched occasionally by the roar of F-16s into a small, cool, darkened, and uncannily quiet building– is like plunging into the ocean in a spacious submarine manned by a lot of short deckhands with ADHD. There are tanks to pet horseshoe crabs and sting rays. The very low sinks for the washing of very small hands afterward are a great attraction, too.
This morning, the Asian small-clawed otters were in fine form. Mbot said, “That one’s me.” He was pointing to a playful little fellow zooming up a log and diving into the water repeatedly and with what appeared to be great joy. Its body language was telling everyone behind the glass that it was just the luckiest animal ever to land a gig in a ten-by-eight foot tank with a fake pond and a forest painted on the walls. Its fellow in fortune was curled up in a ball, asleep. “That one’s Gbot,” said Mbot. It was the same the last time. Poor Gbot, but he was heading toward the sink again, so he didn’t have a say.
“Which one am I?” I asked. Mbot’s eyes wandered to the next tank over, the curving wall of glass behind which the gar fish circled slowly and endlessly. Gar fish look like they got the cut-rate lobotomy and inherited their noses from the wrong side of the family. “That’s you, Mom,” said Mbot. “You’re a gar fish.”
“But I want to be an otter,” I said. “I want to be that one.”
“No.” Mbot shook his head with certainty. “That’s me. You’re that gar fish.” He pointed to a particularly lumpy, zombie-oid individual.
“Thank you, Moon Pie,” I said. I was comforted by the fact that this declaration was generated by the same brain that, when considering what to take to show-and-tell, produced the answer, “poop.” I am quite sure, too, that his response had nothing to do with the answer he gave me from the backseat on the way to the zoo. “What animal do you want to see today?”
Gbot: “Wan to see Mong-ee. Oo-oo, aah-aah.”
Mbot: “I want to see the gar fish, Mom. They’re my best.”
We made it through the day. I could sleep ’til Christmas. I want to be an otter.
What do you want to be?
* photo of the gallant long-nosed gar from Wikipedia