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