Operation Hot Spot: Is This What Withdrawal Feels Like?
We can’t go to the zoo anymore. I’m crushed. Truly, emotionally aching. For almost three years now, the Halversons have hit the World Famous San Diego Zoo for a couple of hours each week. In the beginning, I pushed two babies in the double Bob jogging stroller and strapped a third to my chest. Then, when they were two years old, I ditched the stroller and walked the boys through the flamingo, monkey, gorilla, and petting zoo areas using a walking rope. Within months of that, the boys were walking freely at my side with white stickers on their chests that proclaimed my cell phone number in huge block numbers. My boys have grown up with the zoo, earning their independence and learning that they can go to fun public places with me if they can prove themselves trustworthy enough to stick by my side on their own. For me, the zoo is synonymous with my trio’s early childhood. And now the zoo is gone.
Well, it’s still there, but it’s gone to us figuratively. A couple of weeks ago I took the boys to Polar Bear Plunge, something we hadn’t seen in ages because they couldn’t walk all the way across the park. Wanting to see the bears and also in the mood to get some exercise on the zoo’s infamous hills, I loaded the boys into the triple-wide jogging stroller and pushed them through the entire park. It was a hot day, the hills were bigger than I’d remembered, and the boys were heavier than they’d been at age two. When I got to the Plunge, I had earned my leisurely lunch with the boys in the cool underground viewing area. Thanks to the heat, the bears were frolicking in the water like big white pups. I pledged to return a few days later, for the fun and for the workout. My buns were burning from the two hours of trick exercise.
But when we returned to the zoo, the boys once again loaded in their triple jogger, we were turned away. It seems that a zoo entrance person had finally noticed how old my boys were. Apparently, at three years old, a free toddler becomes a paying preschooler. Our family membership only covered me and my husband because we’d signed up last August, four months before their third birthday. I’ve been getting them in without paying for five months now, unknown to me and unchallenged by zoo staff. If I wanted to go in, I was told, I’d have to buy them tickets…at $16.50 each. $49 for two hours! My eyes bulged. What about next week, and the week after that? We have an addiction to feed! Fine, the man responded, I could buy a $75 family membership and get year-long access. Well that seemed like a lame option. We’ll be moving in three months and our adult membership is still good until then, why spend $75 on a year pass? Unfortunately, there’s no short-term pass available, and no bargaining with a World Famous San Diego Zoo staffer. With tears in my eyes (no joke, I was that upset), I backed the triple jogger out of the zoo entrance and slogged it back to the car. The boys, surprisingly, didn’t mind this development. I took them to Squirrel Park instead, where they met a new little friend and fed peanuts to the squirrels. They were just as happy. And so was I . . . a little bit, anyway.
Kids are resilient, they can go with the flow, they can make an adventure of anything even when it’s not the planned outing. I have a lot to learn from them, because I’m still crushed about our zoo loss. To feel better, I’ve turned to my beloved “To Do List” spreadsheet and added an “Upon Return From England” page. The first entry is “Buy Family Zoo Membership.” I have a date with polar bears in August 2009, and I plan to keep it.
“Operation Hot Spot” is a series of blogs chronicalling the Halversons’ three-month mission to hit as many San Diego tourist spots, landmarks, and popular hot spots as possible before hopping over the pond for a year in the UK.