elephant memories

Funny thing about kids is that if you mention that

just maybe…could be a possibility…in all likelihood…chances are good…

you might visit the zoo on Saturday.

You better be ready to deliver.

Kids never forget. Ever.

Kids have elephant memories and Ava and Mia are no exception to this rule.

It’s Saturday morning and it’s pouring. The wind blows the rain sideways into the windows. Mother Nature’s way of scrubbing the glass clean.

I am still asleep. My eyelids flutter. I hear their bell-like voices floating into my tired brain, reminding me that I promised to take them to see Santa’s reindeer arrive at the zoo.

Come rain. Come shine. A promise has been made and it must be kept.

Rain jackets, umbrellas, and towels packed.

Off we go.

When we leave home, we are greeted by not one but two rainbows. A glimmer of hope. The sun is playing tug o’ war with billowing clouds brimming with raindrops. Squeals of excitement ripple through the car. I watch one end of the rainbow touch the lake below. I wonder if a pot of gold is waiting.

The moment is short-lived as the rainbows fade as quickly as they appeared.

Pot of gold has gone missing. No leprechaun to catch.

The clouds have won and it begins raining so hard, I can hardly see through my windshield. My wipers work up a sweat, trying to wipe away the unconquerable downpour.

Yet, as if by magic, the weather changes again. We have turned onto the coastal highway and can see the ocean spilling out in front of us. Waves cresting white crash into the beach. The rain transforms to mist and the fog softly rolls in. It’s peaceful, quiet, and surprisingly warm.

In front of us is the San Francisco Zoo entrance, where we find plenty of parking spots. It’s virtually empty. The normal Saturday crowds thinking the downpour had extended it’s reach to the sea. We pick a prime spot up front and I shepherd the girls out of the car.

Greeted by friendly faces, I joke, “Am I the fifth person today?” The greeter informs me that no, I am closer to tenth. We both laugh.

The girls are anxious. Excited to see Santa’s reindeer.

Cheerful wooden red reindeer signs show us the way, like bread crumbs dropped on a forest trail. Ava points the way, each time a new sign appears.

Two Santa hat wearing stone lions, looking less than pleased to be decorated, welcome us to the reindeer pasture.

The girls run to the fence. Faces glowing with the thrill of seeing some of Santa’s reindeer. A little extra good luck in making the “nice” list this year.

And there they are, Holly, Belle, Peppermint, and Velvet. No, they aren’t really from Santa’s crew, but actually loaned by the folks at Operation Santa Claus, Reindeer Ranch. These reindeer hail from Redmond, Oregon. Not quite as far as the North Pole, but still out of state.

Eyes wide, Ava bombards the zookeeper with questions.

What do they eat? How do they stay warm? Where is the snow? Where is Santa? Are they boy or girl reindeer?

The zookeeper is patient and enjoys the questions. Answering each one thoughtfully.

Later, they show her a reindeer hide and antlers. She gently touches the fur. She asks what happened and they tell her the reindeer was sick and died. Ava gives a serious look and replies, “That’s sad.”

I can’t get either one of them to pose with the reindeer for a picture. No idea why. Ava is content to pose with the stone faced lion wearing the Santa hat with floppy felt reindeer antlers. Mia wants no pictures taken at all.

So, I guess the point of this story is to deliver on what you promise. It may look like a bad idea, but in the end things usually work themselves out.

It was wonderful having the zoo almost all to ourselves. The animals were out having breakfast so, we were able to see all our favorites up close. And for the first time, Ava saw a giant anteater. He was absolutely fascinating to Ava as she watched him poke his long nose into man made termite houses.

And best of all, the carousel rides were free that morning, so we rode it twice. There was no line, so I was able to say “You want to go again? Well, let’s just stay on!”

Giggles. Smiles. Lots of hugs.

Rain or shine. Never let it stop you from delivering on your promises, you may just miss out on something special.


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