It's Friday. Little more than a week for school to start. I was going to have a quiet day at home with my boys but I think--I really ought to take the kids to the zoo. Not many Fridays in the future when we can just pick up and take off for some fun in the city.
I call my dad who is staying in town with my brother and ask him to be ready to join us for a "quick" run to the zoo.
I get the kids ready, pack snacks, feed them breakfast. We put on shoes and step out when the phone rings. Dad. "So, would you guys like to come tomorrow instead," he says. "That way you can all come...hubby included...the air and water show's going to happen."
My kids are dancing on the sidewalk waiting for me. I feel myself getting irritated with my dad. "I am coming today," I say. "The boys are practically in the car."
"That's ok," my dad says, "The planes will rehearse today. We can watch that."
I look at my watch. It's coming on 10:30. Time to stop and get dad, pack some lunch then head for the zoo. We can stay there for a couple hours and I can be back before rush hour hits.
I drive to the city. Painless until the exit to the zoo and my brother's place is backed up for a mile.
I look up at the sky. Fighter jets are zooming here and there. My older son is excited. So is everyone on the beach who has come to watch the rehearsal. I sigh. I shouldn't have come. Still, it's kinda fun seeing so many planes up close doing their acrobatics. The noise is incredibly loud but at least the kids are giggling madly.
A cop directs us to the next exit and so we take it.
I get to my brother's place. It is close to noon. I start packing a sandwich lunch--I wonder why I did not just pack a lunch at home. I can be so stupid sometimes.
My dad starts feeding the boys knick knacks--fruit, then nuts, then he starts heating some soup. "Not now please, we should leave."
"Only take a second, " he says. It takes him half an hour to fix the soup just right after which my older son sits down for a bowl full.
I'm done packing lunch so I say. "Let's go now."
It is 1:00 pm. We take off for the zoo. As soon as we enter, there is a carousel which my older son wants to ride. We go up to it and I buy shamelessly expensive tickets. We take a round. Dad shakes his head at our choice of animal to ride on. "You should have sat up front so I can take a picture," he cries from afar. I grin and tell myself not to get mad at him.
We decide we have to have a round two. I buy more horribly expensive tickets. My older son insists on perching on the same tiger. This time to please dad I sit myself and the baby on the animal closest to the end so we can take a good picture. "You should have sat on the camel," he cries this time. "Much more room there!" Now I am gritting my teeth. There is no pleasing this old man of mine.
We get off and of course everyone is hungry. We walk down a find a shady spot. Sitting across from a beautiful snow leopard we eat our sandwiches and apple slices. Everyone drinks volumes of water. The fighter planes above us are flying lower and lower. I hand my older son a bag of m and m's since he is still hungry. I forget to tell him to save some for his younger brother.
Our water bottles are empty. "I'll get water," I say. "You look at the map, decide where we want to go next" I tell dad.
"Never mind the map," he says, "we are here to have fun."
I sigh and take the water bottles into the cafe that is simply bursting with people. There is no water fountain. I ask around and finally someone tells me that there is a small sink in the ice cream store where I can refill my bottles. I do when my son says he needs to use the toilet. I take him there and we make our way out.
We decide we need to see the wild cats. Luckily a gorgeous tiger has decided to forgo her nap and instead is posing for the crowd. She looks down at us and licks her chops. She is wondrous. No other cat is awake. We do see one jaguar's tail though.
My son spies a girl carrying cotton candy. "Can I have some?" he asks very nicely.
"Of course," I say--meaning if I find it and its on the way I will get you some. But I don't say that part. Just of course. In all these years, I still haven't realized that saying something like that is making a promise to a seven year old. We walk by a caricature artist. Now I have to have a caricature of my two year old since I have one of my seven year old at home. The planes are going completely wild. They are those blue nasty ones--worth twenty million a piece and they are screeching close to my ear. I am starting to get a small throb in my temple. The excitement of the air show is waning for me and my boys.
The artist starts to sketch my younger son. He sits nicely then suddenly sees the m and m wrapper in my older son's hand and demands his share. My older son has polished off the whole thing. My dad murmurs something about sharing and bad behavior. Then while my younger one hollers he goes off to buy more candy. I console my toddler while giving my older one an earful about sharing. He is close to tears and stands beside us looking very sorry indeed.
I buy the caricature, my dad arrives with the candy and we set off. We have seen two animals so far and its already close to 3. "You people don't know how to have fun," my dad says when I ask him the time and tell him that I want to head back before rush hour. "Everything is by the clock.." He tsks and shakes his head. This from the almost always grumpy, once upon an top executive who lived by the clock himself. I growl under my breath and we move on looking for giraffes.
My older son is very somber when we pass a second cafe. He quietly asks if he can still have the cotton candy. I feel bad for him. "Sure, I say." I tell my dad to go on and I'll follow. Dad moves on with the toddler. The cafe has no cotton candy. Go by the cafe near the entrance, they say.
I leave. The frequency of planes has gone up by 200% as has the noise. My son complains about the cafe not having cotton candy. I tell him he is a spoilt child and that he is not even showing the slightest bit of interest in the animals. Then I start to storm towards my dad.
Dad wants to walk back by the lake. I am not sure I want to do that. "We go back the way we came," I say firmly. "I need to buy this one cotton candy." Finding that cotton candy has become an obsession. Why can't I let it go, I wonder. "And those planes are driving me crazy."
He quietly agrees muttering something about spoilt kids and eating too much candy. I let out a scream which luckily no one can hear because of the planes flying by.
My older son is now walking with his shoulders slumped and his eyes teary. He suddenly hugs me from behind and apologizes for being so bad. He says he doesn't want any cotton candy.
I hug him back. Maybe he is a trifle spoiled but he is not a bad little chap. I tell him we will keep looking and if we find some good, if not next time. That was all he needed. he nods happily.
It is now about 3:30. We go up to the entrance where there is a small train going round and round in small circles. My toddler goes wild with joy. We take a ride on the train then buy cotton candy, an ice cream and a coffee. Then as we watch the train the boys munch on cotton candy and ice cream. Dad and I share the coffee.
My dad says quietly, "Kids get hungry when outdoors--heck adults get hungrier when outdoors. He asks my older son if he is happy. My son nods joyously. My younger one is too entranced by the train to respond.
"We ate, we saw one tiger, one snow leopard and one jaguar's tail, we ate again," Dad says. "A successful day all in all."
We must have walked a total of 200 square yards in three hours. I laugh. He is right.
It has been a good day after all.
We dust off our hands and leave the zoo. "Lets walk by the river," I say.
I start to take a picture of him with the boys when Dad sees a rower in a canoe approaching us. "Wait until he is passing then take the picture," he says. My toddler is getting antsy in his stroller and my older son is doing handstands far too close to the water. But I smile and I wait for a couple minutes. When the rower is in the frame I click. Everyone smiles.
Then we stroll back home.