As part of our Summer of Togetherness (i.e., making the most of my husband’s layoff), we visited the San Francisco Zoo on the same day that Prop 8 was declared unconstitutional. The city crackled with excitement that the heavy fog could not muffle.
I hadn’t been to the SF zoo in about ten years and it seemed like a lot has changed. The grounds and animal habitats seemed better cared for, and though there was lots of construction in many areas of the park, it all seemed like the sprucing-up kind instead of dereliction. What I remember most vividly about my last trip was how foul the penguin enclosure smelled, how our friend Eric just appeared from the bush in front of us like a ranger, and how we accidentally went over the Golden Gate Bridge. Twice.
Isobel was very excited to see what she called the tang-o-rangs but the ape enclosure was very different and the orangutans weren’t there anymore. Not to be daunted, Isobel then requested we find some chinchillas. Which they also didn’t have, seeing as how we were at a zoo and not a pet store. She forgot these requests once she was completely enchanted by the baby gorilla, dancing and playing tug-of-war, and the sweet baby tiger who stuck close to her mom. Just like our last trip to the zoo she was frustrated by her lack of ability to actually get inside the animal enclosures, so she was thrilled when we went into the petting zoo area where she was allowed to feed and brush the goats. After one goat gently headbutted her she kept her distance until she found a very docile white goat who lay sprawled on the ground and was happy to let Isobel stroke its back and feed it pellets one at a time. “I love this goat, Mama. I don’t ever want to leave,” she said, patting it lovingly.
In addition to a baby gorilla and baby tiger, the zoo was proud to announce its youngest attraction: a baby giraffe. It was so tiny and delicate and an absolute perfect miniature of its parents. I don’t even think it was six feet tall yet, and its little face eyed us curiously as we entered the barn to see it. Isobel immediately declared the whole area TOO STINKY and she covered her face with her hat in protest. She did not even want to look at the adorable baby giraffe because she found the smell so offensive. Her nose must be very refined because it smelled no worse than walking by a cow at the fair. Really, it smelled like plain ol’ cow–nothing strange or even exotic. She can’t even look at a photo of the giraffes without reminding me how much they smelled.
Last winter while looking for nature shows to watch on Netflix we stumbled upon Feeding Time, a very kid-friendly show about exotic zoo animals that also happens to be entertaining for adults to watch. The giraffe, otter, and I think maybe even bear or penguin episodes were shot at the SF zoo, so it was neat to show Isobel the actual place where the show was made.
We left when the zoo closed for the evening and as we exited the gates Isobel turned to me and said, “I’m mad for some reason. I am mad we are leaving the zoo.”
We drove past the Castro on the way to pick up dinner and it was packed with excitement and celebration after the Supreme Court’s ruling. My in-laws taught Isobel how to play I Spy on the way up and she kept shouting, “I spy a rainbow flag! And another rainbow flag! And another rainbow flag!” It was magical. While at a stop I noticed an ad for a dating site that said “Update Your Status.” I thought it was wonderfully fitting given the circumstance and hope to see many same-sex couples listed as “married.” (Update: This poster is actually a campaign for AIDS awareness, not a dating site. I was just so caught up with the excitement I didn’t notice!)
I fell asleep in the car on the way home as we left the cool air of the bay for the baking hills and then the valley. Isobel talked continuously, as if relying on her chatter to keep her conscious (which it did). As we sped down the freeway we discussed our favorite animals that we saw that day. The baby tiger and giraffe were popular. Anthony loved seeing the gorillas. I had fun watching the otters, penguins, and the koala, who slept so soundly I thought she might be stuffed. Finally, it was Isobel’s turn. What was her very favorite animal of the day? “The white goat!” she replied.