One of the coolest parts of my day had nothing to do with the trip. I really have enjoyed the few times I've been able to see the boy in his classroom environment. It's reassuring to see him be so self-assured, so appropriate, and lately, so damn grown up! So, I was already a little choked up just watching him do his thing. But when the morning announcements came on, and I heard the echoing voices of every kid in that wing reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, I actually had to step into the hallway to wipe a tear from my face and try to keep my composure and not look crazy. I made it through without a complete meltdown, though, and soon, we were off on our voyage.
Parent chaperones had to drive separately, and I confess that I might have enjoyed the solitude of the 40-minute drive just a little bit. Oh hell, I loved it! A beautiful morning, coffee in abundance, and "harmonizing" my ass off with the radio and my favorite Bryan Elijah Smith CD...well, that's a great way to start a day!
The Virginia Safari Park in Natural Bridge is another one of the very cool treasures we have near us that we rarely think about taking advantage of. We hadn't been there since Andrew was about eleven months old, so I was very excited. Acres and acres of exotic creatures running "wild," and us in an open wagon! Too cool!
We had a fantastic day. The weather was gorgeous, the kids (and parents) were all really well-behaved and knowledgeable and respectful of the animals they were seeing. Even in the excitement of bucket-eating camels and slobbery, foul-breathed bison, the kids handled it all well. At times, one could almost be convinced that we were on the savannahs of Africa, and not just a mile from the interstate. It was impressive.
My personal highlight, other than hanging with my kid? The giraffes! I love, love, love giraffes! From a distance, they were awe-inspiring. From up close, in the feeding station, just beautiful, and graceful, and so strange-looking. They have the most beautiful dark eyes that I would challenge anyone to look into and tell me that animals don't have souls. I wanted to cry again having a moment with this guy right here, and I wanted to hug his neck and rub his mane. I had to settle for feeding him from my hand, but I could have done that for hours, if I had had more quarters.
At the end of the day, we were all hot, sweaty, and exhausted, and I wondered if I'd be able to walk back up the hill to my car. We made a last stop at the gift shop, where my son reminded me he is still a little boy by buying a stuffed snake and giraffe (okay, that's mine...I confess). We loaded the kids on the bus, and headed home. It was a great, great day.