Zoo insight


Some spend all of their lives running away from their past. Others are so focused on the future that the past is something they just can’t see anymore. For me, it seems the further I get away from my past, the closer I actually get back to it.

For example, last weekend The Wife, our two granddaughters Little One and Sweet Caroline and I took a trip to Zoo Atlanta. How did I know the childhood I enjoyed while growing up at 110 Flamingo Street would be on full display?

Though my brothers and The Sister weren’t part of the exhibit, from the way some of the animals were acting, we would’ve fit right in. Guess my parents were right when they said, “The way y’all kids are acting, you belong in a zoo.”

Upon our arrival, I tossed on a backpack full of snacks and drinks, held tightly the hands of two excited little people and headed to Zoo Guest Services. The nice lady there stamped the girls’ passport books, gave them wrist bands good for unlimited rides on the merry-go-round and train, smiled and said, “You girls have a fun time. The animals are waking up.”

I’m sure if they had heard her, they would’ve said thank you, but they were already dragging their much slower chaperones towards the front gate. Suddenly the pulling stopped, not because we had finally reached the ticket booth, but because we heard the mighty roars of lions.

During those seven years spent growing up on Flamingo, there wasn’t a day that went by my parents didn’t shout, “You kids stop yelling! The whole neighborhood can hear you.”

After flashing our family membership card (the best deal in town for all you zoo lovers out there), we passed through the front gate as a crescendo of roars from the lions rolled down the pathway directly ahead. The girls looked wide-eyed at each other then squealed with delight.

For the next 10 minutes, our girls answered roars from the lions with almost equally loud ones of their own. At one point they were so rowdy I thought the zoo police would come over and ask us to leave. But they didn’t, and we eventually made our way over to the gorilla habitat.

A couple of young gorillas, perhaps 2 years old and perhaps twins, were playing right in front of a crowded viewing stand. Luckily our girls were able to wiggle their way through the sea of legs to get right up front.

The similarities between how the gorillas played and how my brothers and I played were amazing. They rolled around in the dirt like we did, threw things at each other like we did, hit one another as they played tag just like we did. They even took a moment to pick stuff out of each other’s hair just like we did.

Even the dad got into the horseplay. He bounded over and grabbed one of the youngsters by the feet before flinging him up over his mighty shoulders. The youngster hung precariously upside-down by one ankle on the dad’s back as he walked around swinging the youngster side to side. I remember my dad doing the same to us as we played so many years ago.

I took numerous pictures and videos of the gorillas and our girls before each got bored. Eventually the young gorillas scampered off to fight over the only hammock in their habitat.

It looked like an ongoing battle, and I should know. My brothers and I also fought over the only hammock in our backyard, and yes, it too was an ongoing battle every summer.

During my daydreaming, our girls had scampered away to the elephants next door. Turning to catch up with our little monkeys, in a flash I was back playing in the frontyard of 110 Flamingo Street. My dad was carrying me around upside down on his back as I dangled from only one ankle.

The rest of the day was recorded in countless pictures, videos, and memories of the now and then. Our family passes allow us to visit Zoo Atlanta as many times during the year we, or our granddaughters, would like. The girls want to visit every week. If it were up to them, they’d live there.

And the way they run, jump, and play in the house I think they’d fit right in. They do come by it naturally. Their grandfather and his brothers were also little monkeys growing up — a long, long time ago on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]