Like I said in some of the other posts, so far, 2010 has been an emotionally and spiritually challenging year.
So I’ve decided that I’m going to start a series of posts about happy memories from the past. I’m hoping that remembering fond happenings will help uplift my spirit and remind me to focus on creating happy memories in the present…
Since we’re visiting the Oakland Zoo tomorrow afternoon [before the sun sets, because the animals needs their rest!] for their annual Members’ Night, I’m going to start with my happy memory about visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago during the Thanksgiving holiday of 2005.
Back then we were living in Champaign-Urbana Illinois where C was doing his graduate study. We had moved out there a week after getting married and even though we were able to spend winter breaks back in sunny [but also cold] CA, we couldn’t make the long trip back to the West Coast during the shorter Thanksgiving breaks. So the first winter, we spent Thanksgiving on the East Coast visiting family and friends [another happy memory] but the second year, we were too tired and busy to go far [C had school projects and I was working] and opted for a long-weekend trip up to Chicago instead.
I don’t remember why we decided to include visiting the Zoo on our list of itinerary and unfortunately, since this was several years ago (and before having kids) so my recollection of the night is spotty [which makes for a terrible blog post, I know] but it was a nighttime event [Zoo Lights?] at the Zoo where they had special activities for the holidays.
Lincoln Park Zoo was normally free and surprisingly that night it was free as well. Coming from an area where not much was free (and the local government always broke), we marveled at Chicago’s many free resources/public services; I guess it’s like how someone might feel (coming from Asia or the East Coast) driving on West Coast “freeways” for the first time. Anyway, we didn’t expect much because it was free but it turned out to be a far better experience than we could have ever imagined.
I don’t know if all cold climate zoos have these features but every animal house had in-door facilities for viewing the animals. Since the houses weren’t big this meant that you can walk right up to the window/cage to see the live animals. So imagine strolling through the halls of the Natural History wing in the old Academy of Sciences (before the renovation – we haven’t been to the updated one) or exhibit halls like the ones in the movie “Night at the Museum,” except that instead of stuffed animals these were real, live ones. Not only that, we were able to buy and drink hot chocolate inside the buildings. Needles to say, to this day, that remains my FAVORITE way to visit the Zoo.
*See how close I was to the “exhibit”?
As if just seeing the animals weren’t enough there were also holiday decorative lights all around the park and in some cases festive music that went along with the light “shows.”
And in another corner of the Zoo there was a special demonstration of live ice sculpturing. I’d upload the videos of the artist ice craving but you really have to see it in person to enjoy the full effect. Again, very impressive.
But what made the night truly unforgettable for us was the sudden snow that fell while we were touring the animal houses. When we stepped outside at the end of the night, large fluffy snow flakes were falling rapidly and quietly. In no time, the ground was covered with a light film of fresh powder. Having grown up in CA, snow was unusual for us [especially since neither one of us ski] so imagine our delight to see the grounds blanketed in such pure white beauty. There was a quiet and peaceful mood to the whole park and the surrounding neighborhood that night, which helped to make our first Thanksgiving together [alone] even more memorable.
*I didn’t Photoshop this picture – that really was the color of the sky that night.
I haven’t followed up with Zoo and its activities since our visit but someday I hope that we will be able to take our boys there. Thanks for the happy memory, Lincoln Park Zoo. I look forward to making another one again soon.