Tuesday, July 04, 2017
Today I am grateful for a brave young woman. Himself and I decided to go to the Elmwood Park Zoo today, which is not that far away and was only charging $4 per person for admission. Works for us.
This is one of those little gems that doesn’t take two weeks to pad through, which also works for us. Our plan was to go earlier in the morning before it got too hot. Yeah right. It was too hot for me by the time I got out of the car. I have a friend whose husband says she goes from zero to bitch in ten minutes when she’s hot. It takes me a couple of hours, but I get there, too.
There were zookeepers at the gates. One was holding a large bird the other a snake. I’m not scared of either, but Himself is not a snake fan and I think he almost had an accident in his drawers when she approached him. “Here, touch the shed snake skin,” she said, holding the skin in one hand and the snake in the other. “I’ll pass,” he said, not quite hiding behind me. My hero.
We had a short tour of American species which was interesting, if not thrilling. The volunteer guides knew their stuff, that’s for sure. We had not been there for several years, so the giraffes were new to us, too. It’s always great seeing eagles up close, but note to self. . .when it’s hot the animals are smarter than you and hide in the shade.
The most impressive animal was the male elk. What a rack on that guy! Some kid scooping poop in his enclosure was a riot, telling stories about how sometimes they like to spray the crowds with urine. The elk, not the pooper scooper. I think.
Himself saved face from the snake debacle and bought us an ice cream, while I found a place in the shade for us to sit, right in front of the tree-top trail. I had no clue what this was until I noticed people being harnessed up. Yeah? No thanks. Not on the best day I ever had. Not a fan of swinging bridges. Or “walking” in rings and on moving logs. Nope. Y’all have a good time. I’ll watch.
Animals like these sorts of things, but at 85 degrees, they still weren’t coming out of the shade. The zoo did a great job designing this, with a lower course for smaller kids and a higher course for crazy people.
I saw a young woman getting ready to do the course with her husband. He was lean and strong, she was strong, but on the plus size. What a trooper. No way would I harness up and do this. Have I mentioned this? But mostly no way would I do it on display for the rest of the zoo goers. I was mesmerized by her every effort.
She was the bravest young woman I’ve seen in a long time. A true Wonder Woman without the damned corset. She maneuvered that course with the slow determination of a big game hunter, allowing faster participants to pass her by, like you’d let someone play through on a golf course.
The long zip line went over the enclosure of the elk and his two elkette girlfriends. Her husband went first. Himself was about ready to call it a day, but I couldn’t leave until I had seen her finish the course. We were in this together, she and I. One in a harness in the trees, one on a bench in the shade. Both tense.
They helped her hook the harness to the zip line and soon she was off, sliding fast, towards the tree with the platform. Somehow her harness buckle wasn’t working correctly and she spun backwards, coming in hard with a sizeable hip smashing into the padded platform. Ouch. That hurt both of us. She rolled back on the line and tried to hand over hand herself to the platform, getting within maybe three feet, when she just couldn’t anymore. They had to zip out to her with a tow line. I was dizzy from holding my breath.
“Now can we go,” Himself said. But I wanted to see if she would try the zip line again. She didn’t. But she did do a couple of more obstacles to get to the ladder. By now her husband was flying back towards the end of the course, too. “You ready?”
“I can’t leave until I talk with that woman,” I insisted. Himself, not accustomed to pouring his guts out to strangers like I am, just sighed. It’s good to know when you’re choices have been taken away and accept it. After almost 35 years, he’s getting the hang of this.
The couple unharnessed while I situated myself near the entrance/exit where they had to come out. She started walking towards me and I blurted out, “You are the bravest woman I have ever seen. I don’t know how you could do that and in front of all of these people.” She smiled like she had won the Olympics. Her husband showed me how the buckle was bad on the harness or she would have been fine.
“He told me we were doing the high, hard course,” she said. “I told him fine. But I wasn’t expecting a bad harness buckle.” Her laugh was like a perfect wind chime.
“Harness buckle or not, I watched every brave step you took and I about had a heart attack when you slammed into that platform off the zip line.” She told me that didn’t hurt as much as other body parts and we laughed. “Well everyone down here was cheering for you.” I will never forget her smile.
“Now you listen to me!” I said, in a strong voice of encouragement. “ Be proud today! Be proud tomorrow! Be proud of this accomplishment for the rest of your life!”
She reached over the fence and hugged me. Hard. Long. That brave young woman and a much older sweaty one were attached by a common bond shared by plus-sized women everywhere. She knew I knew what it took. I knew she knew. BING! Heartprint!