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Winter Zoo Trip

February 1, 2011

We made out like bandits for Christmas, but one of the best gifts we got was a family membership to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

With this pass, we can go to any zoo or aquarium we want for free. We can go every single day if we want: these places are open 365 days a year.

Do you know how great having somewhere to go is? If you are not a parent, then you don’t fully realize how great it is.

A parent of a young child knows that you are never too far from the whirling, swirling “what can we do now” vortex of doom.

You are most likely to get sucked into the vortex during the afternoon. But you are far more likely to fall in during the afternoon if you didn’t get out in the morning.

Let’s see: getting out in the morning. It’s fantastic when the weather is fine, isn’t it? You need very few clothes and no socks. Your child needs few clothes and new socks. You can blow bubbles or kick a ball or take free city-sponsored swim lessons or run through a sprinkler or go down the slide. You can buy iced coffee. You will run into other families out doing the same stuff, and that will spawn even more stuff to do. You can eat out at restaurants, and the kids can muck around in the back garden while you drink wine.

If I am putting summer on a pedestal, so be it. I do remember a few concerns about sun and heat, but they seem rather inconsequential at the moment.

Getting out the in morning is also fantastic when it has just snowed, I will admit. Fresh snow is lovely, isn’t it? It’s so clean and bright and inspiring. It’s not scary if you shove some in your mouth on purpose or by mistake, or if you fall down in it. Just getting out in the fresh snow can be an activity. Maybe we’ll watch a plow and yell “truck!” a lot of times. Maybe we’ll make a tiny snowman. Maybe we’ll watch the super shovel, or we’ll get tossed into a snowbank. Or maybe we’ll just tromp and laugh.

What is less clear is what the activity should be when there is 275 feet of dirty snow on the ground. When there are cigarettes sticking out of the snow, and gray exhaust stains on it, and pee holes from dogs drilled down into it, it’s hard not to feel as if it is surrounding us, and closing in on us.  How about when it’s so snowy that we can’t find the car and wedge the door open in order to sit in it and push buttons, let alone drive it to a friend’s house? My child is too young for movies and isn’t enrolled in school. There are community activities nearby, but not every single day. There are also commercial activities. But while I like watching him bang sticks on the floor and being sung to—I really do—I feel conflicted about the $25 an hour it costs. Still, it is crucial to get him out. It is crucial to find an activity that involves more than eating scones. Plus, the scones are far enough away that we need the stroller, and many of the sidewalks and intersections don’t have good enough clearance for the stroller.

The stroller has become problematic for other reasons. Due to the robustness of my scone-filled child, I can barely manage to carry it up the stairs to the platform. I can’t stand having it around when we’re not using it, and he doesn’t love to be in it. So more and more, we just walk to the train. I am lucky to be mother to a transportationaholic, and to live 1.5 blocks from an above-ground subway.

The train is VERY convenient if we are going South. Or returning from the North. But it’s actually inconvenient in one direction, all of the time, because the Northbound platform is out of service. So what we do is put on all of our clothes, all of them, and then walk slowly to the train, yelling “BALL!” every time one of us wants to stop and get a snowball. (Henry, who is opposed to mittens for reasons he chooses not to discuss, picks them out; I carry them. We are a team!)

Then I carry him up the stairs to the platform. Mostly we want to go north, so we wait for the train and take it one stop south. In our excellently hokey part of Brooklyn, with dead end avenues, that’s 2 blocks. We get off, I carry him upstairs to an overpass and then downstairs to the platform again, and we wait for the northbound train.

Yesterday, we did this on the way to the zoo. I did a cost – benefit analysis and then decided that we’d walk all of the parts to and from the train rather than take the stroller.

So we walk to the train, went up, went south, crossed to the northbound platform, and went north. Weirdly there was not a seat for Henry. More than one person dug their nose deeper into a bible when they saw us coming. This made me very crabby. How about acting the bible out instead of reading it? I wanted to shriek. How about giving my 2 year old a seat so he doesn’t have to hold the pole and lurch around?

Instead, I rearranged the pole-grippers to get Henry a good spot. Finally, a young Russian woman gave Henry her seat.

On the other end of the journey, once we’re at street level again, Henry is walking when suddenly he falls over. Don’t be alarmed, this is a pretty undramatic occurrence: he’s pretty short and extremely resilient. When he falls I usually ask “Y’okay?” and he says “YES” and gets up and continues without a moment’s hesitation or even any eye contact. Sadly, he got a bit of muck in his boot this time, and we kept having to stop to try to make him more comfortable. Then the shortcut to the zoo was all snowed in. We walked and walked and walked. It really wasn’t too far, but it started to seem pretty far. We finally arrived. It’s a bit desolate at the zoo in the winter: the sea lions just roll their eyes at you. They were behind such a large ring of snow, though, that Henry couldn’t even see them rolling their eyes. But there are still striped mice to see, and meerkats, and golden lion tamarins, and the plain old tamarins. The baboons don’t like the snow so they had been spirited away, and we didn’t manage to walk the trail, but we were happy to see the tiny frogs and a bunch of piranhas. (“DADDY! DADDY!” Now we know what daddy’s spirit animal is.)

The trip was rather short, because a nap needed to be taken and a snack needed to be eaten. Still, it was wonderful to have gone, even if it seemed like a rather extreme trek, and Henry spent the entire walk back to the subway staring at the sky and begging to take an airplane home rather than the train.

An airplane? Clearly, everyone needs a vacation.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. frankly manny permalink
    February 1, 2011 7:06 pm

    Favorite: It’s a bit desolate at the zoo in the winter: the sea lions just roll their eyes at you. They were behind such a large ring of snow, though, that Henry couldn’t even see them rolling their eyes.

  2. natasha permalink
    February 1, 2011 9:22 pm

    such great writing. i just love this post. you really capture the joys and non joys of parenthood in the winter perfectly!!!

  3. Michelle permalink
    February 3, 2011 3:12 am

    Getting there is half the fun – come share it with me!

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