I have a bad habit of getting myself worked up about things that are exciting to me, like birthdays or new flavors of Frappuccino. I imagine my impending joy with such detail that, by the time the event (or milkshake-disguised-as-coffee) arrives, it can’t possibly live up to the wonder I’ve created in my mind.
Which is why today, a day I have been looking forward to for no less than three months, was such an amazing triumph of anticipation.
Working in theatre, I don’t get a lot of weekends off. However, because Independence Day fell on a Thursday this year, and because we’re in the middle of camp season, I hit the jackpot with an entire 7 days of vacation. Woohoo! Unaccustomed to such luxury, the only thing I could think of that I really wanted to do as a family was…
…visit The Jacksonville Zoo.
We visited the zoo for my birthday one year, and it was phenomenal. There were giraffes, and penguins, and giant elephant statues.
The only way I could imagine the zoo being any better was to imagine taking our adorable 15-month-old daughter with us. Lately she’s gotten quite good at animal sounds, and I thought it was time to let her know that the creatures in her board books are real and not just pictures to which I’d assigned arbitrary noises. Except for the kangaroos, who don’t actually go “boing-boing.”
So that’s what I’ve been doing since March; imagining what it would be like to take her to the zoo. In my idyllic world, we would get up in the morning and have coffee with buttery, homemade cinnamon rolls, followed by some superb block-stacking. We would get into the car just at nap time, when she would drift peacefully off to sleep for the two-hour drive to Jacksonville. Upon our arrival, she would awake, pleased as punch to find herself in a new place that smelled faintly of manure. We would point at the animals and she would make the right sound, squealing with delight upon the discovery that parrots actually say “caw-caw” and that I wasn’t making it up the whole time.
In my fantasy, we would pour our happily tired selves back into the car and Jamie would watch the DVD Curious George Visits the Zoo with a new-found appreciation for the elephant who paints billboards and the cat who makes pasta. The sun would begin to set just as we pulled back into our driveway, and she would snuggle in close to my shoulder as if to say “thanks for the super fun day, Mom.”
Again, I may have over-thought this a little.
Except today something amazing happened.
Jamie turned all of the zebras into statues.
Not really. That’s just a zebra calliope. But wouldn’t that be funny?
Today was just magnificent. There might not have been filtered amber light shining on every part of my day, and it might have been 94 degrees with 1,000% humidity, and Jamie might have said “rawr” in answer to every animal call after seeing the lions, but everything else? As close to perfect as a trip to the zoo with a 1-year-old and a teenager (our exceedingly fabulous babysitter who came along for the trip) could possibly be. There were stingrays to be petted, and potato wedges to be devoured, and of course, elephant statues to be photographed.
Don’t panic; the elephants were already statues before Jamie arrived. Why are all of our pictures with sculptures? I am too much in awe of God’s amazing creatures to bother with taking photos of them, so my zoo souvenirs (zoovenirs?) consist only of photographs with fake animals.
The day was a wonderful success, complete with homemade cinnamon rolls, I-95 naps, and an overwhelming amount of cuteness in the form of baby animal imitations. I don’t think Jamie or Vann could have been any sweeter, and I can’t imagine anyone being more helpful and easygoing than Lexy. I claim this day in the name of wishful thinkers everywhere. We dreamed. We zooed. We conquered.
Next stop? Georgia Aquarium!