A few weeks ago we headed off for a day at the Washington Zoo.
Alden has recently become very interested in animals. She has a puzzle featuring a zebra, a tiger, a hippo, and various other denizens of the animal world not often to be found in Chestertown. But so far she hasn’t actually seen them in the flesh. She was excited to say the least.
Robbi and I were gratified that our young daughter was so excited to experience the wonders of the animal kingdom.
Yet, when we go to the zoo, we parents were in for a rude awakening. Was she fascinated by the lions? She was not. They lay inert in the grass hundreds of yards from where we stood, looking far less interesting than a sleeping Kato. Was she riveted by the hippo? No sir. The hippo has, apparently, been traded to the Milwaukee Zoo for some other brand of wildlife. Surely, we thought, surely she would be awestruck by the Western Lowland Gorilla, whose species name (gorilla gorilla gorilla) is at the least repetitive and memorable.
But no. The gorilla provided no enchantment. He seemed content, like the rest of the animals, to loll about despondently. And who can blame him? The day was hot and muggy.
No, Alden’s trip to the zoo was highlighted instead by a different kind of majesty, that of the Pucker Powder being sold in one of those helpful kiosks.
What’s Pucker Powder, you say, Is that some new kind of dangerous animal?
No friends, Pucker Powder is a gleaming apparatus dispensing pure colored sugar from vertical tubes, made ever more enticing by the presence of a smiling pickle in a festive hat.
Alden was in awe.
Her inertia was short-lived. Once she realized that she was not dreaming, she lunged for the Pucker Power pedestal with the nimble enthusiasm that the lions might have demonstrated on a cool fall day.
We elected not to take photos of the scene that followed: the wrenching of a tiny child from her personal promised land while trying to explain that the key virtues of the Washington Zoo were elsewhere to be found.
What Alden learned in Washington is unclear. Robbi and I, on the other hand, now know to visit the zoo in the late afternoon, and not on a Saturday, and not when the temperature is flirting with unbearable.
I have no doubt that the day she turns 35 and is no longer subject to my draconian rule, Alden will be the first in line at the Pucker Powder stand, waiting for her long-deserved taste of the sweet life.