Franklin Park Zoo was deserted yesterday morning. The day was damp but mild and I expected something of a crowd of stircrazy cityfolk there. But there were only about five other cars in the lot at 11 after the zoo had been opened for over an hour. Several of the outdoor exhibits were closed, but we didn't care. We were there for a good tromp. We all needed exercise, especially the kids who seemed so happy to be out where they could run. "Nun, nun, nun!" Cried Kaylee as she tried valiantly to keep up with her brother who paused and took her hand. We kept close behind as he ran in slow motion so she could be with him.
We started with the birds, housed in an aviary that looks like something out of ancient China. We wended our way through steamy, pungent rooms with recreated bird habitats; the swamp, the tropics, a northeastern river complete with ducks, pond and lily pads.
Then we went to visit the gorillas. They're housed in another humid building that smells not unpleasantly like straw and feces. The exhibit was redesigned recently and there is only floor to ceiling glass separating us from the gorillas. They sit in front of the glass and the kids shrieked with glee when the baby gorilla whirled and twirled in her baby gorilla dance. The older, wiser ones sat inches for the glass and regarded us sagely while holding an object that could only have been his own poop.
"What's he holding?"
"Poop." I said with a shrug.
"Oh!" Said Kaylee in delight.
Then we went back out into the foggy damp day and wended our way up the hill to the Lion. He was moping up on his rock, like he's been since his companion lion died last year. They used to roar at each other all day in a deep tone that made the ground vibrate beneath your feet. But now he barely moves.
The tigers down the hill were eying the children with false disinterest. But the fence was high enough. My daughter called out "Ki Tee! Ki Tee!" over and over again with toddler joy.
Then we ambled back to our car, Eric taking all opportunities to splash through puddles and crunch through the melting snow that framed the sidewalks.
Some people are snotty about our modest zoos here in Boston. But I love them. We've been to the Tampa Zoo, so enormous, diverse and spectacular. It is wonderful, but it's almost too stimulating. Most weeks we take a trip to either the Stone Zoo
or the Franklin Park Zoo
. We've had a membership to Zoo New England every year since Eric was three months old. Our zoos are on the perfect scale for a little family like mine. We go in bravely without strollers and without the crowds we can just let the kids run and explore what they want to. In Tampa, the crowds made us vigilant. There were lines to wait in and we were hyper aware of strangers coming between us and the kids. But here in Boston on a mild winter day, we had the whole place to ourselves.
To me, this is the perfect day.