Rain and Shine
By Linda Vujnov
A face full of freckles beamed as Madison anxiously stood by the car, suitcase in hand waiting for me. Her barefooted brothers whirled around the yard swinging bats, tossing balls and scooting around on wheeled toys while my husband motioned each one over for a goodbye kiss. The sound of the horn echoed down the block as we threw out our last wave and blew kisses to the boys left behind. This year’s birthday celebration called for an overnighter along with a great adventure for girls only.
Maddy’s mind raced as she began thinking through her choices for a days worth of excitement. Perusing through quaint boutiques and sipping fancy blended caffeinated drinks would have been my first choice. A typical female she is not, so shopping and anything “girly” were completely out of the question much to my chagrin. About three miles into the twenty-five mile drive Maddy confidently said, “I have decided that I would like to go to either the museum or zoo.” As I continued driving, I leaned toward the windshield looking at the sky above. In between short bursts of hazy sunshine, scattered around the gray sky, I noticed threatening black clouds. Showers were not only in the forecast, but most of the ominous clouds were in the direction we were heading. With that in mind, I stated with certainty, “The museum sounds great since rain is on the way. If we go to the zoo we will get drenched.”
Hind sight should have told me that her “I love to get wet” gene had yet to be replaced by the “I hate to get wet” one. Her reaction was a resounding, “Cool! The zoo it is.” With much dismay and a look toward the back seat for a reassuring glance at the umbrella, I conjured up a fake smile, took a deep breath and gave my best effort to convince her that the museum would be a better choice. I started with, “Most likely the animals will be under shelter and out of view,” continued, “With all of the rain we probably won’t be able to stay long,” and ended with a strong finish of, “Don’t forget that the museum has that amazing bug exhibit that you love.” No mind changing effort worked, so mother and daughter were on their way to a rain soaked jaunt through the zoo.
Two positives play into a rainy day at the zoo; one, the lines to purchase tickets are very short and two, there is plenty of parking near the entrance. We walked swiftly toward the ticket counter, shuffling our feet in the attempt to keep from slipping on the wooden decking which made up the temporary admission area. Everyone around us, all six people, had umbrellas in hand and were outfitted in warm jackets and sturdy shoes. While I dreamed of slurping hot bowls of anything, sitting fireside in an elegant hotel, Maddy skipped with delight clenching her camouflage patterned umbrella in one hand and the map of the zoo in the other. I continued reminding myself that this afternoon was all about Madison, and giving her the best birthday present ever was my only job.
My reluctant limbs and miserable mindset began to give way to laughter and joy as the two of us chatted around the chimpanzees and leaped over puddles. To our surprise, many of the animals were out as if the downpour was an everyday occurrence. Tigers trampled passed the onlookers and monkeys carried on as usual swinging from cage tops and grabbing at goods laid out for them by the zookeepers.
As the chimpanzee “show” we were watching ended I bent down to gather up my belongings and much to my dismay saw that the bottoms of my jeans were soaked up to mid-calf also my toes felt numb because the rain had seeped through my boots soaking my socks. At this moment I silently wished that the day would come to an end. On the other hand Maddy could not get enough of the sights and sounds surrounding her. She was having the time of her life.
After locating over forty-five creatures and snapping a dozen or more pictures, the rain finally began to dissipate, and the smell of something warm and delicious summoned Maddy and me into the Treetops Terrace Café for a much deserved lunch break. We could have eaten plates of hay if they were warm. After devouring burgers and fries, the sun finally poked its face through the clouds. With full tummies and hands interlocked we exited the zoo swinging our arms as we walked.
Maddy spent the rest of the afternoon recapping the day with stories about the animals we encountered. I smiled and listened remembering that although most of the day I was uncomfortable my discomfort paled when compared to the fact that Maddy’s birthday getaway ranked as her favorite birthday present ever. Although not wrapped in shiny paper and tied with curly ribbon, this gift was wrapped in unconditional love and tied with lasting memories.