Thursday, 19 June 2008

Today was one of the days I want to remember forever and ever. I finally got brave, put excuses aside (like Gorgeous Boricua needs the car!), and took my kids to the zoo. The plan was for us to leave by 10:00-10:30. So yes, we left at 11:00, and we didn’t get there until 12:00. The Garmin wasn’t working, so I had to use the car navigation system. When we were almost there, the instructions stopped. I kept going around a neighborhood. I asked directions to people; the instructions were soooooo easy to follow, but I couldn’t find the zoo! I finally realized the Garmin’s antenna was down, so I fixed it, and it took me to my destination in 30 seconds. The kids were so excited to finally be there! And we were hot. But the forecast said “temperatures in the mid 70’s”, but I felt someone was roasting me! And Chubbers, El Cangri and I were wearing longs pants! At least my other 2 kids can choose their own clothes, and they weren’t uncomfortable as they were wearing shorts. Actually, after I parked, cooled down, and started having fun, I realized I wasn’t that uncomfortable after all. It was so funny because after we emerged from the parking lot, so worried about remembering in what lot we had left the car, we couldn’t find any animals. I mean, there were exhibits right in front of us, but it seemed the animals were having lunch or napping; none were in sight. And then, when the kids started getting impatient, we saw the gorillas. There were four in their exhibit, and we got to see two of them fight. Chubbers was in the mei tei, and kept saying “moo, moo,” and El Cangri would say, “no moo, a, a, a, a! No gorillas mami. Mon-key!” After that, the animals starting coming out of their hiding places and we saw: armadillos, yellow little monkeys (“Winnie-the-Pooh”, Chubbers said), meerkats, shrews, squirrels, a chipmunk in the wild (it was eating nuts by a path), elephants training and smiling their sweet happy smile, capyrabas, pygmy hippos, zebras, cheetah, sloth bear, red panda, and many others. But we were all anxious to see the real stars of the zoo. The panda bears. There are three: Mei Xiang, Tian Tian, and the baby Tai Shan. The zoo has a beautiful panda habitat, and as we approached the beautiful bears, I was so anxious. I could picture the little child in me, being so excited about seeing those magnificent creatures, and I kept saying to myself, “we are gonna see pandas!” But we didn’t see any, and then we turned and we saw a cluster of people, shooting like crazy with their cameras, and I made myself look, and there it was, a living panda in front of my eyes. And Chubbers started again, “moo, moo”. We spent what seemed like hours learning about our favorite animals. And then of course, we went into the shop. We left we some little friends: Tan-Doo (GB’s webkin panda), Kai-Lan (Swan Princess’ panda in a purse), Bananas (El Cangri’s webkin monkey), and Mei Mei (Chubber’s panda). We walked and walked, and while we walked we talked. My babies were sleeping, one in the stroller and one in the mei tei, and my older kids told me all about their future careers as vets and zoo workers. Also, they expressed, in the most vehement fashion, how mad they were that people kept contaminating our planet and killing animals.
We had a wonderful day.
And then it was time to go back home. It took me forever to get out of Washington. That was the other zoo. A zoo of upset people driving, disoriented tourists trying to cross the street, ambulances coming from all directions, traffic lights in the middle of turn-abouts, traffic lights hidden by trees, and a crazy woman with four hungry children who couldn’t find her way out of the city. I had such faith in the two navigation systems, the car’s and the garmin, that even though I felt I was going in circles, I hoped I would end up home. And yes, all of a sudden, the noises died down a little, and I found myself in the freeway. And we were home!!!!
And now, everyone is asleep, dreaming of panda bears and elephants maybe. And I am looking at the pictures I took today, and realized that there are pictures of animals, but the majority are of my own cubs, smiling, posing, eating, nursing, sleeping. I don’t get tired of looking at them. I like going places just to see the light illuminate their eyes first, and then the rest of their faces. How fun to be them! How fun to be their mother!

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Yamile Saied Mendez

Yamile (sha-MEE-lay) Saied Méndez is a fútbol-obsessed Argentine-American, Picture Book, Middle Grade, and Young Adult author.

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