Reid was bright-eyed from the moment I tried to ease her out of bed at 4:10. We got to the airport and through the check-in, security and customs process with no trouble other than I had to give up my coffee before I was ready. I’d hoped to keep it until we were x-rayed but that was a no-go. I burned my tongue gulping some and then turned it over to Ken. He wouldn’t have even drank it, let alone appreciated it. Our flight went well and we were able to check in as soon as we arrived (about 8:30). Reid and I unpacked, watched some cartoons, ate brunch and had a nap. Aunt Karin and Shea arrived about an hour into the nap and so we all headed for the Lincoln Park Zoo. It’s a free zoo and so we were guilt free when we paid to go on the swan paddle boats and the endangered animal carousel and even when we bought Dippin Dots (yum!) since we were helping support the zoo.
In the children’s zoo section, Reid went in the treetop climbing structure – a lot like the climbers at McDonalds – which was built of bent wood covered with carpet suspended at different levels and the structure was covered in a wire mesh. It was marked as suitable for 3-8 year olds. Reid had a bit of trouble when she first started and so I changed her from her dress into shorts and a t-shirt. With a boost from Shea, though, she began her journey. Shea beside Reid, but on the ground, as she worked her way along the course. She made it to the highest part and through a silo before balking. At a slope where she needed to scoot down on her bum, she decided she needed someone to come and get her. Of course, that couldn’t happen. At 13 Shea is taller than me and Aunt Karin, even if he is less round. A few bigger and more aggressive/confident kids pushed past and then there was a little girl who went by gently. We told Reid to follow the girl. The little girl must have noticed Reid’s dilemna because the patted the path Reid needed to take and went slowly, watching to be sure Reid followed her. Reid followed her through the second half of the climber. Me, with my heart in my throat unable to come to Reid’s rescue. At some point the girl’s father noticed and was calling up to his daughter to be sure she helped Reid – in Spanish. I wouldn’t have guessed that she and Reid weren’t speaking to each other in English, the girl was so competently encouraging and directing Reid along. Maybe they weren’t speaking at all. When the girls got out, I had Reid go over and say, “gracias” and I thanked the girl and her dad, too. Reid was so proud for having got all of the way through the climber. I was so grateful for some random 3 or 4 year old girl who helped. What wonderful creatures children are! And I owe a thank you to Dora the Explorer for teaching Reid to say gracias. Who knew we’d ever need it? I have tears in my eyes as I write this. It’s hard to watch your child struggle. I think Reid only knows that I think she is fabulous for having met the challenge. I hope so anyway.
We saw the usual zebras, giraffes, turtles and so on but no elephants. The lack of elephants caused a bit of incredulity and disappointment on Reid’s part but overall, a good time was had by all and when Shea’s legs were like jelly (and the zoo was closed), we went back to the car. Reid ran about like the silly girl she is in the parkland next to the parking lot. She rolled around in the grass as though she were rolling downhill, walked in mud puddles from the mornings rain, got all dirty and had a blast.
We went for supper at the Rainforest Cafe. I’ve heard about them in Toronto and Vancouver but had never been. Reid loved the decor, especially the animals (of course) and I was impressed, too. You wouldn’t mistake the animals for live ones but they were still cool. I was pleasantly surprised that the food wasn’t outrageously priced. Reid got three mini hotdogs, apple sauce and milk in a souvenir cup for about $5. My supper was a bit more but since it was the first real meal of my day, I splurged. By the time our safari guide brought our bill, Reid was declaring herself tired. She was asleep minutes into our trip back to the hotel.