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This Great Society
 

When I was a girl, growing up in southern Ontario, any child worth their salt had been to the Metro Toronto Zoo. My Mum and Dad took my small tribe of sisters and me at least annually, packing us up with heaps of juice-boxes and cookies, sunhats and diaper bags. Upon arrival we’d spill out of the station wagon for a walk on the wild side, following the massive animal footprints painted on cement walkways, seeing if we could make the enormous jump from one to the other.

The walkways wound in and out of dense foliage hung with vines, across precipitously-high trestle bridges crossing ravines in which tigers stalked, into caverns of fluorescent underwater wonders, through massive atriums thick with tropical bird calls, and around azure pools filled with barking seals and belly-flopping penguins, before heading straight out into a seemingly endless (for an eight-year-old) savanna, where giraffe necks waved amid tall grasses and spindly trees.

To tell the truth, one of my favourite attractions at the Zoo was definitely the jungle-themed McDonald’s—where I could get not only my signature order of a cheeseburger and small fries to share with my sister Deborah, but also a sense that I was taking lunch break on safari, swivelling on those awesome seats amid all the greenery and zebra stripes. Such were the exotic wonders of the Metro Toronto Zoo.

So it was with an understandable air of skepticism that I joined Deborah twenty years later to visit the Vancouver Regional Zoo: an institution whose public presence was far less impressive than the massive 3-D “ZOO” sign my sisters and I perched on for photographs once upon a time. The Vancouver Zoo looked much more like the quaint drawings from our childhood classic book, “A Day with the Zookeeper.” It had the same small wooden gate, cardboard cutout sign, cute concession stands, and notable absence of large painted footprints.

But, this is what parents do—visit less-than-impressive institutions for the entertainment and education of their offspring (who are as yet too young to notice that the parking system is woefully lacking). And my sister was definitely a parent now. In her wake toddled one small but determined tow-headed Emma of two years. Ever-present somewhere about her arms was a much younger, more placid version of the two-year-old: a tiny, chubby armful of little person named Noelle. And because I am thoroughly smitten with these children who will hopefully someday grow to idolize and adore me, I found myself unexpectedly sorting through my shoes for a pair that could withstand some serious walking around the Vancouver Zoo.

Somewhere between sharing my Itzakadoozie popsicle with Emma—and then with Noelle, who was almost falling out of her stroller to reach it—and taking a strangely disconcerting ride in the tiniest yet fastest train I have been on in a long while, an unexpected aura of awe began to steal over me. I began holding the group up, wheeling Noelle in little circles to keep her nervous smile in place while I read each plaque thoroughly. As my brother-in-law strode ahead with backward glances that clearly communicated “let’s keep going, I’m getting hungry,” I shouted out obscure facts to my multi-tasking sister. “Hey did you see this?” I asked, as she struggled to keep Emma from sticking her impossibly tiny hand through the fence into the Peccary pen—a Mexican wild pig, who, the sign informed us, had “razor sharp teeth” and an ability to eat “anything, even poisonous snakes and cacti.”

 
This Great Society
Contents - This Great Society Arts - This Great Society Creative Writing - This Great Society Thoughts and Analysis - This Great Society Formalities - This Great SocietyContents - This Great Society Faraway in the Jungle - 1 of 2 Faraway in the Jungle - 2 of 2 Veronica CollinsKatherine Moes Thoughts and Analysis - This Great Society Link to "Animal Alphabet" by Katherine Moes D. A. Weiss