Today the children and I are visiting the zoo, and as luck would have it, the temperature is a brisk 96 degrees in the shade, with 87% humidity. The children love the zoo, and we visit often. Oddly enough, some of their favorite attractions are the many life sized bronze animal statues that are scattered around the park. These seem to have more of a draw than the actual live animals. Children climb and play on the statues, and there is quite a bit of whining and complaining when it is suggested that we move forward.
Unfortunately, I find myself in a repeated sticky situation when we go to the zoo, and it begins on the thickly forested path called “Primate Pass.” This winding path leads directly to the newly redone chimpanzee habitat, and is lined with several life-size bronze chimpanzee statues in various natural poses. It wasn’t until I walked along “Primate Pass” for the first time, that I realized a full grown, male chimpanzee, in a standing position, is approximately the size of a human adult. The statues are (of course) anatomically correct, and there is one particularly large male statue, posed in a very manly stance, directly at the path’s edge.
The two children in my charge at this time, are drawn to this strapping fellow like a magnet to metal. They cannot help themselves. They run straight for the giant pendulous testicular area, which happens to be directly at face level for small children. They fondle, hang from, and poke at the thing with sticks, while people walk by, and either comment to one another, or avoid eye contact, rushing past as quickly as possible. On this particular day, I am dealing with the situation by standing on the opposite side of the path, directly across from the children, studying a nearby plant with great intensity. I try to notice every minute detail. It’s so…green and…leafy. I’m thinking this might make people believe the children belong with somebody else.
“Nanny!” shout’s the four year old. People on the path look around to see who he is calling.
Rats! I’ve been outed. “Yes, what is it?” I ask.
“Look at this!” he shouts, at a decibel high enough to cover the entirety of “Primate Pass.” “This monkey’s berries are SO much bigger than daddy’s!”
I instantly close my eyes and say a small prayer, “Dear God, I would appreciate it if you would turn me into a small birdie immediately. And, by the way…isn’t it time for cross continental migration?” I peek with one eye. Not only has the prayer not worked, the entire exchange has been overheard by everyone on the path. A few folks are giggling behind their hands, several have shocked looks on their faces, and one elderly woman sitting on a bench, clutches her handbag in horror and utters, “My Word!”
I am aware that I am sweating profusely as I make a curt “let’s go” gesture with my hand and turn to leave the area, hoping just this once, the two tots will follow, no questions asked. As if on cue, the two year old hits the ground and let’s go with an ear splitting, snot slinging temper tantrum. So much for skulking out quietly. As usual, I must pick up and carry the kicking, spitting child from the area. I (very firmly) instruct her elder sibling to follow silently. Also, as per usual, the two year old is not going without a fight. Today she grabs the huge, pendulous “monkey berries” with a death grip, and we have a short game of tug-of-war before I am able to pry her little hands from the bronze genitalia. The crowd stares on, frozen in amazement, or is it amusement?
It is a 25 minute hike back to the parking lot (even when achieved in double time). We exit the zoo like an enraged marching band. People move aside and gawk at us as we stomp by, the two year old slung over my shoulder military style, still kicking and screaming, and the four year old, now screaming from behind. I, however, have the slightest grin on my sweaty face, and as I buckle the four year old into his car seat, I say, “I can’t wait to tell your daddy about today. He will be so pleased and proud.”