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It’s a Good Day

24 July 2013

Mama Becomes Pupil, Episode 2

It doesn’t matter how the day goes – it’s still a good day.

Husband connected with an old high school friend a couple of months ago on Facebook. They talked and then conversation lagged until she and her boys planned to be in Chicago for a mini-vacation. She got in touch, and invited us to meet them for an afternoon at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Zoo 2

We invited my mom. ‘Cause my mom loves the zoo, and I couldn’t imagine Meatball’s first trip to the zoo without her.

The plan was to take off right after church, treat ourselves to lunch, and spend a full afternoon at the zoo – and maybe the lake-front.

But other obligations pushed off the “right after church” part. By about an hour. No problem.

We met them at the hotel where they were staying – somewhere between our ‘burb and downtown – and headed to Portillo’s for lunch. But it was closed. And by then, we were all just kind of ready to get on with the day. So Wendy’s would have to do.

Then – well it was the first day that wasn’t hellish-ly hot in the Chicagoland area in some time, and it was Sunday, so traffic in Lincoln Park was ridiculous. We rolled into the area around 3:30, and I pulled up the website on my phone.

“They’re open until 6:30 on Sundays. No problem.”

The parking lot is full, though. Sooo … we sat in stop-and-go traffic for another 20 minutes or so to get one block further so we could start looking for parking. “It’s going to be the funnest half-hour at the zoo ever!” I quipped. Husband and Mom laughed. Half-way there, the old/new friend called from behind us in traffic.

“My car over-heated.”

Timothy’s 2005 Focus dies in summer Chicago traffic, and hers was a much older something-or-other. She turned it off between inching forward, and – thank God – made it through the light to the next street to search for parking. Parking found. Sweet. Unload people. Short walk to the zoo entrance. 4:15 PM – still plenty of time for a good zoo trip.

“The zoo will be closing at 5 today.” 

What? Fundraiser? Why wasn’t that info on the website? We just sat in traffic for longer than we’ll actually be at the zoo.

Meatball (had recently woken up) was just fascinated by all the people, and being outside.

Zoo 1

You’re right, little man. It’s a gorgeous day. Lincoln Park is lovely, and I’m with my favorite people. It’s still a good day. Let’s go look at two animals before they kick us out.

But, “Closing at 5,” means, “We want you out by 5,” so all the buildings and the fun exhibits – the hands-on Kids’ Zoo – were already closed and closing. So we didn’t really have 45 minutes to see the animals at the zoo, we had 45 minutes to walk around the grounds of the zoo.

We did manage to sneak into the Big Cats house before the shooing began, and Meatball caught sight of the tiger.

Zoo 3

When he gets excited lately, he sits bolt upright, makes this really urgent almost-grunting noise, and stabs his arms straight out in front of him – fingers straight and spread wide, wrists at 90-degree angles from forearms. He watched the tiger pace for a few moments until it went back outside to lie down where no one could see it, and he watched it like … well like someone seeing a tiger for the first time.

Outside, a lioness sprinted across her enclosure, and the day was made. It didn’t matter that we’d been shuffled through the primate house – past only a few, tired monkeys, or that the reptile house was closed, or that there were no elephants.

I watched him beam as Mom and I turned away from the lions to find the rest of our group, headed toward the exit, and realized that maybe I shouldn’t take things like huge tigers and running lions so much for granted.

He did that all day.

We sat around on some picnic tables for a while, trying to figure out what – if anything – we could do. He was fascinated by the windmill, because windmills are kind of like enormous ceiling fans. And that’s cool.

We went back to the parking lot to check on the friend’s car, and as we walked across the street to get coolant from the gas station – he smiled and cooed and clapped at everything. Because the city buildings are big and there are lots of cars and even more people, and all of those things are cool.

It didn’t matter that the day didn’t go as planned – that we didn’t really spend much time making new friends, or that we missed half the zoo, or that car troubles meant it was best to just get the car back to the hotel without any more detours. There was sunshine, and people, and a tiger, and we even got a water bottle from the gas station. (And water bottles, especially cold ones, are really cool.) I kept getting tired, but he was on an adventure.

And he, again, was right.

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