When I was a child, one of my favorite outings was a trip to the local zoo. Sometimes we went as a family, but most often we went with neighborhood friends, all piled into my mother’s car. The adults would sit in the front seat, with the other moms holding their babies on their laps, and the rest of us kids would squeeze into the back seat. If we couldn’t all fit, we’d make the smaller ones sit on the floor. (This was in the days before seat belts and car seats.) Once we arrived at the zoo, we’d have a marvelous time running around and seeing all the exotic animals, riding the zoo train, and when our moms weren’t looking, fishing coins out of the fountains to be used at the nearby concession stands.
Later, when I had my own kids, I loved taking them to the zoo as well. It was fun to watch them enjoy the same things I had loved so much as a child, and to take them for a ride on the very same zoo train. The zoo has changed and improved in many ways over the years, and thankfully provides a much more natural habitat for its animals these days, but a visit there is still a little trip down memory lane.
Now that my children are grown, I was looking forward to taking my two-year old grandson to the zoo this summer. Sadly, the zoo had to close temporarily when the pandemic struck and when it did open back up, there were many new restrictions in place. Reservations were required, masks must be worn, and many attractions remained closed. I wasn’t sure it was worth the bother, and decided my plans to take my grandson to the zoo were yet another casualty of the Covid virus.
But when my daughter told me she’d made reservations for us to take my grandson to the zoo, I agreed to go. We came prepared with our masks, a wagon to pull my grandson around in when he was tired of walking, and plenty of cold drinks to keep us hydrated. While we didn’t have a typical zoo experience, I can honestly say it was still an enjoyable one.
We saw plenty of animals, (my grandson liked the elephants the best) and, of course, rode the zoo train just as I had all those years ago. It was fun to see a two-year old get so excited when he saw his favorite animals and enjoy the train ride so much. When it was over, I thanked my daughter for taking the initiative to plan the outing, knowing that if she hadn’t, I would have missed out on a very special experience.
And the next time I think that trying to do something I normally enjoy is just too much trouble these days, I’m going to remember that trip to the zoo. Just because I can’t do many things as I normally would, doesn’t mean I can’t do them at all. I can still invite friends over, we just sit outside and keep our distance. I can still enjoy food from my favorite restaurants, I just eat it on their patio or get carry-out. I may not be able to browse the library, but I can order the books I want and pick them up curbside.
Life is certainly different now, and sometimes it’s hard not to be discouraged. But I think if we’re willing to be flexible and a little determined, we’ll find that there are still plenty of simple pleasures just waiting to be enjoyed.