not-so-silent sunday: the mother and the tigers

tiger sanctuary | the merry gourmet

Once upon a January day, after too many days in a row stuck at home, the mother decided to drag her children out of the house. She had tried this the day before, and she only succeeded in getting her kids to go out to lunch with her.

“It’s too cold to go outside,” they whined.

The day before that, she forced them to walk outside with her, just a quick walk around the block.

“It’s too rainy to go outside,” they said. The rain had stopped, but it was overcast, and they were being whiny and mopey. The daughter refused to walk beside the mother and the son. She was not happy, not one bit, that she was outdoors, against her will.  Such a mean mommy she had.

The children preferred to bury their noses in Minecraft and Animal Jam. The mother did not understand why building pixel-block worlds with square animals was better than kicking rocks, splashing in puddles, and riding the awesome bikes (bikes with gears!) that Santa brought for Christmas. She did not understand Animal Jam at all, and she hated National Geographic, just a little bit, for creating the site.  She did not understand these children.

On Saturday, however, with backup from the father who was finally off work (and thankfully, not on call), she managed to extract them from their computerized devices (which were not really theirs, but were instead the mother’s and the father’s, and the children had taken them over for their own not-so-evil purposes). The mother had found, through clever Google searching, an animal wildlife sanctuary filled with lions and tigers and bears, oh my. And, as luck would have it, the sanctuary had an opening on their 12:30 tour for a family of four.

The mother was very happy, as she was finally out in nature with her beautiful children and her loving husband. The sun peeked through the clouds only occasionally, and chilly air was damp with humidity, but this was many times better than the brashness of the florescent lights and the dry, still air inside her home. Cardinals chirped from the bushes, and observant vultures hovered in the pines and oak trees that sheltered the sanctuary. She was thrilled to be using her beautiful new camera body, gifted to her by her generous husband who ignored the “let’s do Christmas small this year” edict they had agreed upon. She zoomed in and out, knelt in the dirt to get the good shot, and snapped photo after photo. And she was content.

tiger sanctuary | the merry gourmet

tiger sanctuary | the merry gourmet

tiger sanctuary | the merry gourmet

The son was not thrilled, as the tour was taking too long and was too boring. And because, when you are seven, you are supposed to get your way ALL of the time. He whined and he complained, and the mother found herself whispering, not terribly quietly, “Shhhh!”

“But it’s taking too long. She won’t stop talking,” he said, of our witty tour guide, a volunteer who has put up with the likes of him before and was unfazed.

“What, is this TIGER school or something?” the son asked.

The mother handed him her iPhone. “Take it,” she said.

And so the son played Minecraft on the little iPhone screen while walking between tiger and bear cages, taking care not to trip on stumps or rocks and not to get too close to any particular cage – especially the bobcat, which is a “very dangerous animal” that likes to shred arms that get too close – a task requiring such coordination that it might be a candidate for an Olympic sport one day.

While the son built a virtual mansion and shopping center out of pixels, the mother and father and daughter enjoyed his silence. They marveled at the tigers, and they oohed and aaahed at the bears. They frowned and shook their heads at the stories of the abused black bears and the big cats who’d had their claws ripped out, before they were rescued. They watched, in awe, as the giant felines rubbed their heads against the fences, wanting to be scratched behind their ears, the same way the family’s housecats, Maggie and Louie do.

But, mostly, they were happy. Despite the Minecraft-addled boy child.

tiger sanctuary | the merry gourmet

tiger sanctuary | the merry gourmet

tiger sanctuary | the merry gourmet

*   *   *

The Endangered Animal Rescue Sanctuary (EARS) is located in Citra, Florida. EARS is a non-profit organization that provides a home for unwanted and/or abused endangered animals. They rely entirely on donations and are run by a group of volunteers with huge hearts. This was our first time there, and I know that I’ll go back. They do amazing work.

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21 Responses to “a nursing home visit, and a strawberry balsamic pie”

  1. Beth (OMG! Yummy) — February 5, 2014 @ 7:23 pm

    You had me at strawberry balsamic. I will make this but not until strawberries go back down to less than $7 per basket 🙂

    Your nursing home story brings back many memories of my MIL’s scenario. I truly empathize and can vividly remember my own version of the same situation. Stay strong and keep visiting as often as you can.

    Have a great time in San Diego!

  2. Elizabeth — February 5, 2014 @ 7:33 pm

    The pie looks delish!! Can’t wait to try it. My heart goes out to your and your family. The situation with your father is not easy and you have every right to feel the full range of emotions, sometimes repeatedly in one day! It is good for you to visit and even though you think it does not mean something, it does. Deep down inside, it does. It is concerning when you mention all of the items that have gone missing. Maybe a chat with management could rectify that situation. Glasses, hearing aids and clothes are a big deal! I cannot imagine what your Mom is going through. Probably a lot of ‘Thank God he is still here with us’ and ‘Don’t let him suffer needlessly’ which are all normal. Sometimes there is a connection of guilt associated with the latter – all normal. All one wants is for things to go back to when there were good memories. My heartfelt prayers for you and your family.

  3. Kathryn — February 6, 2014 @ 6:10 am

    Oh, this is so familiar. Those half conversations that go round in circles and the knowledge that in 10 minutes, your visit will be forgotten. It’s so, so hard. Much love to you and your family xo

  4. Georgie — February 6, 2014 @ 11:00 am

    I love this pie. It’s beautiful. Very much in like the way you walked me down to the memory of my father, through your father. I was numb for a long time during and after my fathers illness. Though many years later, I remember all the good sweet love he gave us. Those beautiful memories stay with and make me smile now. I know it will be the same for you too. Now, lets see if I can macerated these almost ripe strawberries into sweetness. Huge hugs to you!

  5. Carlinne @Cook with 2 Chicks — February 6, 2014 @ 11:25 am

    This pie looks amazing! This is coming from a “give me a chocolate cookie or brownie” girl. Your posts about your visits to the nursing home are always so touching. I hope that baking and cooking provide some comfort to you throughout this unwanted journey. Maybe there actually IS a connection to your story and your recipe.
    Safe travels.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — February 6th, 2014 @ 9:03 pm

      Baking definitely provides comfort. So does the writing about it. Thank you so much for commenting, Carlinne.

  6. Lizthechef — February 6, 2014 @ 11:41 am

    Having been in your situation with parents and in-laws, I would urge you, as a physician, to take a stand with the staff about their neglectful treatment of your beloved father. He needs his vision and hearing supports asap – good luck!

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — February 6th, 2014 @ 9:02 pm

      Oh, Liz, we’ve been all over that nursing home administration and nursing staff. I’ve even had to threaten to file formal complaints with the state. It gets better for at time, then the care lapses. It’s a constant struggle.

  7. Tina — February 6, 2014 @ 1:26 pm

    The pie looks amazing. It is really sad that your dad is still here but he’s not. We all have a terminal illness some just don’t know what it is. Hugs.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — February 6th, 2014 @ 9:00 pm

      You’re so right about that, Tina. And thanks for those hugs.

  8. jacquie — February 6, 2014 @ 1:44 pm

    I’m sorry for you and your dad. Thank you for being willing and courageous enough to share your story. you are grieving and especially then things don’t need to connect. though perhaps connection is as simple as the pie and the making, eating and sharing of it helps ground you and your loved ones in a very challenging situation.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — February 6th, 2014 @ 9:00 pm

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Jacquie.

  9. Paula — February 6, 2014 @ 4:19 pm

    Another poignantly beautiful post Merry Jennifer. This pie looks amazing, I love how you did the top crust in strips and adding balsemic vinegar to the strawberry filling must have elevated the taste to over the top wonderful.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — February 6th, 2014 @ 8:59 pm

      Thank you, Paula. I wish I could take credit for the balsamic genius. The recipe is from the Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book – those women are talented.

  10. Di — February 10, 2014 @ 12:31 pm

    I grieve for you, for your family, for your broken hearts. I have no words beyond this to express my sadness for you all. I have been there.

  11. Vanessa — February 13, 2014 @ 10:10 pm

    Thank you for the recipe. The pie tasted delicious 🙂 My only problem (which very well could just be my lack of pie making skills) was that the juice was still runny, it didn’t thicken up. Any suggestions? Thanks, vanessa

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — February 14th, 2014 @ 8:54 am

      Did you use the ground arrowroot? That serves as a thickener. Also, if the pie is warm when you slice it, it will be runnier. If you refrigerate the pie, then slice it and let the slice come to room temperature, the pie slice will keep its shape better.

  12. Vanessa — February 14, 2014 @ 2:18 pm

    Thanks for the reply. I used ground arrowroot and refrigerated it for a day, maybe I’ll add more arrowroot next time. But, my husband still loved it, so thank you! 😉

  13. Nutmeg Nanny — February 15, 2014 @ 4:31 pm

    My thoughts are with you and your family in this difficult time, unfortunately I know too well that there aren’t enough words anyone could say to ease this sort of pain.
    Your pie is gorgeous, it looks perfectly done.

  14. lucy — February 19, 2014 @ 12:25 pm

    A beautiful pie and a beautiful and heartfelt post. I am so sorry for what you are going through with your father. Can only imagine how hard it must be for everyone, especially your mother. I have no advice and no words of wisdom but will send up a prayer for you and your family.

  15. Jennifer — June 10, 2014 @ 4:50 pm

    SO BEAUTIFUL!!!

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