I recently spent a gorgeous morning with my kidlings at our local zoo. Now, zoos are places I used to not like much. Something about seeing all the animals locked up behind bars and away from their natural habitats. But I'm learning more and seeing things differently, especially through my children's eyes. Many zoos rehabilitate animals and work at educating people so we don't kill off these precious beings with our environmental choices. Many zoos work at trying to preserve endangered species or reintroducing animals to the wild. But that's not what struck me this time.
It was watching all the people.
Families with infants and toddlers. Families with grandparents and school-aged kids. Groups of teenagers. Young couples. Childcare field-trippers in matching tees, led by eagle-eyed teachers. Eldercare field-trippers in matching wheel chairs, guided by attentive caregivers. Friends in their twenties. Thirties. Sixties. Different people. Together for one experience.
Smiles, tears, and laughter. Conversation, communication, and cameras. Memories caught and created. Humanity. Of all the places we could have chosen to go to on this particular day, we all thought, "Let's visit the zoo." I was most impressed with the teens and young adults. On their own, this is what they chose to do. No parents making them go, no class assignments. Just a choice to see animals, have fun, and maybe learn something. And they were engaged, not only with each other, but in what they were observing: laughing at the monkeys, squealing at the spray of the animated dinosaurs, "awwing" over the swarms of butterflies. And absolutely loving the prairie dog bubbles. Groups of wheelchair-bound men and women gathered around with vocal memories of children and grandchildren, back in the day, popping up in the same bubbles these kids and teens were using now. A loop in the generations. A connection we will share, those of us observing, those of us participating, those of us remembering.
I'm glad my children were in the mix. They got to see people together, having quality face time. Sure, the animals were exciting, obviously well cared-for and not seeming to mind that Idaho isn't actually Africa or the Amazon. But I think the human zoo was more important. That we could trundle along together and enjoy the day with strangers all around us, a snap-shot of all our lives, separate, yet strung together with these memories. Tomorrow we all may make different choices. But this moment was ours. We chose it. And we were there.