The quality of life is determined by its activities.

~ Aristotle

Waiting is never easy.

As adults, we have the ability to make things happen. We pursue those things we desire and often find satisfaction is seeing things come to fruition. The size and shape of our passions may shift throughout our pursuit, taking on new dimensions and hues, but we eventually find what we seek, recognize them in their altered forms, and embrace them. Having learned the hard lessons about maintaining reasonable expectations with regards to the world around us, we encounter delays and greet them with an attitude that knows fulfillment lingers just around the next bend in the road of life. We grownups weather the storms, frustrated for a time but more or less content in the knowledge that the deluge won’t last forever.

Kids, however, find waiting nearly unbearable. Their goals are black and white. They know what they want, can draw it with stubby crayons using swirling lines and vivid colors that are non-negotiable, and refuse to alter their vision.

For my youngest daughter, her passions look like giraffes. Our local zoo is home to three of these majestic animals, and they are the reason we fork over the funds for a yearly family pass. During our myriad visits over the course of the summer, we spend time in all the different areas of our zoo – with the pigs and ponies at the farm, the kangaroos in the Australian Outback, the Capuchin monkeys in Central Zoo, or with Gus and Tucker, the acrobatic Siamangs in Indonesia – but we seldom leave without traipsing along the African Journey. Zoe’s eyes light up every time we round the corner heading down into the giraffe paddock where Mystic, the most sociable of the giraffes, often hangs out at the fence line, bending her long neck down to accept a leaf of romaine lettuce from Zoe’s outstretched, patient hand. Her smile at seeing this oldest and most gentle of friends is always the highlight of our trip.

Last year, the African Journey got a makeover. While men and women in hard hats drove bulldozers, moving and shaping great mounds of Indiana clay, the entire exhibit was closed to visitors, and the animals were tucked safely in their pens.

And Zoe had to wait.

She bided her time well, writing the giraffes letters decorated with orange and brown borders and drawings of wide open plains, wishing them a peaceful respite filled with memories of sunny days and quiet evenings. More than once, however, she went to bed snuggling tight her stuffed giraffe, waiting for her chance to see her friend again, her heart growing fonder as the days passed by.

This past Friday, the waiting ended . . .

Come along with the Thomas family on a walk through Africa . . .

If Aristotle is right, then the quality of the life of my family goes up several notches with every visit to our local zoo. And seeing Africa again? My daughter agrees it was well worth the wait . . .

[photo credit]


14 thoughts on “Waiting

  1. Oh, the hyenas! They’re my favorite. I love them. They’re all misshapen and gorgeous and alive. Love. Them.

    I used to work at a zoo. We didn’t have hyenas or giraffes. Superbummer.

    Am I talking? I don’t even know. I’m jealous of your zoo trip.

  2. Aww, that looks like fun. We don’t have a real zoo around here; it’s about 2 hours away. Soon, Elliot will want to see animals though.

  3. What a beautiful post. Your kids are so cute. I love the zoo too!

  4. If Aristotle is right, then the quality of the life of my family goes up several notches with every visit to our local zoo.(Cheek)

    Interestingly enough going to the Zoo convinced me I would never go again. All I could see and taste was oppression. Its true what they say about life, its all perspective.

    1. There is much to be said about whether zoos are a good thing from an ethical standpoint. Our local zoo is one of the top ten in the nation, and, from what I’ve seen and heard, their care for the animals is above par. Does the opportunity for my daughter to feed a giraffe, to pet her nose, and share some of the love she has to give with such a beautiful creature, outweigh the bad that is sometimes administered to these animals for the sake of our entertainment and pleasure? Interesting question . . .

  5. The hyenas are so fun!

  6. Gorgeous photos, and I have to admit to being jealous that your daughter gets to feed the giraffes. (For us, it’s all about the zebras, and if she could feed one that might just erase the audio memory she has of two of them mating from our last trip – thankfully we were around the corner and only heard the, er, event.)

    1. I have my wife to thank for the photos. She’s got the eye I so terribly lack. Welcome to The Cheek . . .

  7. I’m not sure the waiting is any easier for adults. We just have more control of what we do in the meantime. But then, half the fun is in the anticipation, don’t you think? I love planning a trip almost as much as taking one.

  8. We’re overdue for a zoo visit. I struggle with whether zoos are doing the right thing, but I believe most zoos are sincerely trying to educate people and encourage them to make better choices for the entire world to preserve habitats for animals.

    Great picture of the kids! One of the best “kid shots” I’ve seen in a long time.

  9. Our zoo moved the giraffes and zebras about two years ago to another park called The Wilds. It’s a more open safari-like adventure.

    I miss them. They were always out and always willing to be photographed.

  10. I love watching my boys face light up when he sees the animal that he’s currently obsessing about. We saw a koala a couple of weeks ago while walking the dog. He was down on the ground and scooted up a tree as soon as he saw the dog. From that point on, Zach was hooked on koalas. So a couple of days later we headed for a local wildlife reserve where he got to pat a koala and, because I cashed in on the inherent female softness toward unaccompanied fathers and sons, got to help ‘put him to bed’.

    So, I know where you’re coming from.

  11. These photos are amazing. The buzzard rocks. Never saw one like that before.

  12. A possible glimpse into your future. My son was a zoo fanatic–a fanaticism fed by weekly visits to the San Diego Zoo. Today he is a Wildlife Biology major.

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