Chris’ dad came up for a visit last week much to everyone’s delight. Nora especially was excited about his visit for one reason: sausage. Every time John comes, he buys her breakfast sausage and makes it for breakfast every single day. We don’t buy it for our poor deprived children, who apparently love breakfast sausage in all its awful glory, so every time Nora hears that Grandpa John is coming to visit she talks our ear off about how he is going to make her sausage. She even told her teacher that last week. Grandpa John arrived Wednesday, sausage in hand, and we had a nice visit. He spent tons of time with the girls, rode bikes with me to pick Nora up from school Friday, and even joined us on a trip to the Denver Zoo.
I hadn’t been to a zoo since middle school, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. The zoo itself seemed well-cared for and clean, but I felt so torn. I do think that being able to see creatures we might otherwise never be able to see can help to build a reverence for our planet and the other species that inhabit it. Seeing exotic animals, fish, and plants makes them more real, especially for children, which can lead toward a better understanding of the importance of our individual impact on earth and our role as caretakers of the planet. I also can acknowledge that zoos have the ability to play an important role in the preservation of a species or providing homes to animals who can no longer survive in the wild. But, I also left with the impression that I don’t really like zoos that much. I felt so sad for just about every animal there, most especially the large animals like the giraffes (who had not a blade of grass left in their enclosure) and tigers and lions whose enclosures were not even a 10th of the size of the land on which they would hunt in the wild. The poor grizzly bear is so incredibly close to his natural habitat; that proximity only made him pacing in circles around what seemed to be an exceedingly small cage all the more painful to watch. And the gorilla. The gorilla, who looked through the glass at me with eyes that seemed so incredibly like my own, was simply heart breaking. He sat with his back to a brick wall, alternately staring off into space and looking at us with the solemn gaze of a being who understood he was being put on display.
I don’t mean to end this on a depressing note. The Denver Zoo donated four tickets to our silent auction to raise money for La Leche League of Fort Collins during World Breastfeeding Week, and I had decided to bid on them since the girls had never been to a zoo. I got them for less than they would have cost and was able to help support our local LLL group (instead of the zoo), so it felt like a win-win. Saturday’s weather was perfect. We packed snacks, a stroller, and made the hour drive to the zoo where we walked and walked and watched both girls get to discover animals for the first time. I am glad that they had the opportunity to see the magnificence that can be found in our fellow inhabitants of earth and, though I don’t think we will ever go back, it was a nice family outing.
The rest of our visit with John was quiet and calm. I did not take nearly enough pictures, but suffice it to say we were all sorry to see him go Monday morning. Once again, I found myself missing the nearness of family and wishing we could just gather them all up and move them in with us forever (at which point I might just change my mind).