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At the Zoo


DSC01747It was a cold, 50-degree windy day.  A Friday during school spring break when Husband and I visited the Denver Zoo.  And so did hundreds of other people. The Colorado wind blew fiercely. If it’d just been the two of us, I’d have suggested we choose another day to see the animals.   As we got out of the car, Son said, “Dean, we’re in a parking lot.  Choose a hand to hold.”  Our two-year-old Grand screamed, “Pop!” and reached for Husband’s hand.  Husband and Dean walked two steps in front of me.  Son and Daughter-in-law, pushing nine-month-oldNeil in a stroller, led the way. Dean turned to look at me and said, “Come on, Gran!”  He held out his little hand to take mine. The wind blew much less fiercely.


Many groups in the ticket line looked just like us.  Grandparents, parents, grands.  But I doubt that other groups had experienced leaders like ours. “Dean, what’s the first animal Pop and Gran will see?” his mother asked.


“Lions!  GRRRRRR!” Dean said.  Pop and I walked fast to keep up with his churning legs.  The massive male lion lay sleeping on a boulder just a few feet on the other side of the thick glass inside Predator Ridge; the female slept on the ground.  “Pop, pick me up.”   Husband held him and Son stood beside them.  The lion opened his massive copper brown eyes and then yawned.  His head was as big as Neil’s stroller seat and when this cat stood on the rock, his eyes were level with mine.  The female lion stood, looked toward the male, and turned away when he lay down.


Thus, our day began at the Denver Zoo that first opened in 1896.  It encompasses 80 acres and in 1918 was the first zoo in the United States to use naturalistic enclosures instead of cages.  The animals roamed in open spaces, and we walked along wide walkways that followed the lay of the land and were bordered with tall trees and vegetation.


“Look, there’s Bert!  He’s out of the water,” Daughter-in-law said.  Bert is a 57-year-old hippopotamus, and he stood beside a large swimming hole.  I’ve seen many hippos’ heads, but not those enormous bodies.  Bert lumbered close to the edge of the water.  He put one foot in as if to test the water’s temperature.  Then his barrel-shaped body slowly, but not gracefully, entered the pool.  When the water splashed, we all laughed – even Neil.  Then all we could see were Bert’s eyes, tiny ears, and nostrils.


Among the trees of the Primate Panorama, white cloths the size of a sheets, hung on tree branches.  Cloth that looked out of place until we watched an adult orangutan, holding a baby in its arms, wrap the cloth around herself and the baby.


The wind continued.  I stood behind anything or anyone bigger than me to knock the 15-mile-an-hour wind out of my face, and I went inside every building even if I had to maneuver around fifteen baby strollers and didn’t know what animals were inside.


It was a perfect zoo trip.  This day really wasn’t about the animals or the weather.  It was about being with two of our Grands and their parents.  And holding hands.
















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