This week my kids had Wednesday and Thursday off from school for conferences. Because it would make too much sense to give them off Monday and Tuesday and get a 4-day weekend out of the deal. Of course, I didn’t realize that they were off from school until I had already made personal plans for one of their vacation days. I’m on top of things like that.
After one day of hanging out and home listening to the kids bicker, I decided we needed to have a plan of action to survive the second day off. Preferably action that took us out of the house. Fortunately the weather has been sheer perfection this week, AND I happen to have a zoo membership that has only been used once. No brainer, right? The only drawback was that I didn’t particularly care to take three kids to the zoo alone, so I persuaded a friend to bring her daughter and come along with us.
I got up early this morning and started packing lunches and otherwise preparing to take 3 kids to the zoo for the better part of the day. I made sure to have my husband put the extra seat in the minivan, and I thought I was doing well. Of course, when my friend arrived, everything seemed to fall apart, as it always does when I’m trying to get out the door. I think I went in and out of the house about 15 times before we finally backed out of the driveway. I was about halfway down the street when I reached for my trusty sunglasses, only to discover that they were somehow missing.
I stopped the car and ran back to retrieve them, looking all over the house until I discovered them on top of my daughter’s dresser where I’d set them when I helped her get dressed.
Finally we were off! Like a herd of turtles, I quipped, as we turned out of our development. Little did I know that it would turn out to be a false start.
A quick glance at the dash told me that we were dangerously low on gas, so before we got on the highway, I stopped to tank up. It’s a good thing I did because when I went to get my credit card out of my wallet, I realized my photo ID was missing — the very photo ID that is required along with my zoo membership card for admittance.
After a few minutes of fuming and sputtering, we turned around and drove back through town to my house to collect my driver’s license and then back to the highway, adding about 30 minutes to our trek into Philly.
I wish I could tell you this sort of debacle is unusual for me, but it’s more the rule than the exception. The worst part was that I wasn’t alone. Usually the only one I inconvenience is myself, but today I couldn’t apologize enough to my friend for dragging her into my chaotic existence.
We finally got on the highway and headed toward the city. Fortunately the traffic cooperated, and I was driving close to the speed limit when we passed a cop on the highway.
But we soon discovered that the comedy of errors was far from over. When we arrived at the zoo, I missed our turn into the members’ parking lot and had to drive several blocks out of our way before I could make a legal U-turn. Not that I’m above making an illegal one, but I happened to see the police officer patrolling the area right before I made the turn. (Are you seeing a pattern yet?)
We did manage to park and get into the zoo, and after a pit stop for potty facilities, we FINALLY began our zoo-rrific adventure.
All was going quite well until we were on our way to exit the park, and my daughter suddenly realized that she didn’t have her purse. This is a Vera Bradley purse with several of her most prized possessions inside including a change purse, her favorite scrunchie, and a one-of-a-kind purple pen. (It’s one of a kind in her 6-year-old mind, anyway.)
Exhausted from a day of traipsing all over the zoo, we stood in the middle of the pathway deliberating about what to do. We weren’t sure where she’d left it, but it was our hunch that she left it at an exhibit on the other side of the park. Of course there was no guarantee it would still be there, and I had a good mind to leave and not look back, but my daughter was distraught. And it did seem rather irresponsible to not even try to find it.
But can I just say how very weary we were at that moment?
Finally, we decided to try to retrieve it, so we set out across the park. When we arrived at the exhibit, there was no purse to be found, so we headed back towards the exit, empty-handed and forlorn. Along our way, I happened to see a staff member, and in a stroke of brilliance, and I assure you, those are few and far between, I stopped her and asked where there might be a Lost and Found.
She asked me what we were looking for, and I told her. “Wait just a minute,” she said. “I’ll go get it for you.” And sure enough, she walked into a nearby building and returned a few minutes later with the purse.
Now I ask you. What are the chances that I stopped the exact staff member who had collected the bag, and we just so happened to be right by the building where they keep the Lost and Found? I even discovered a Starbucks on our way out of the zoo. Our providence, it seemed, might be on the upswing.
We all walked back to the car and loaded up and set off for home. Once again, I noticed a police officer behind me right before I began to make an illegal U-turn to get to the highway. No, believe it or not, I do not have a habit of making U-turns, legal or otherwise. It would seem this zoo needs a better traffic pattern.
Finally, six hours, four ice cream cones, one pony ride, and two sleeping children later, we arrived back in the ‘hood, just in time for dinner. And wine.
It was worth it. I think.