Springtime at the Zoo is Haunted

Spring is childhood.

I remember the trees. Big mature trees that had been standing for many, many years. They spread their shade in a sun speckled canopy over the playground.

I remember playgrounds. There was one with a wiggly bridge that had been frequented by The Billy Goats Gruff. I didn’t see an ogre, but I was always frightened to cross. You never knew with ogres. There was sand, always sand, never rubber or bark. There were hot metal slides and hot metal monkey bars and see saws.
The trees surrounded the reverse oasis of sand, metal, orange, and yellow monuments to childhood.
There was a ledge with three jars. My Great Aunt had thrown them on the pottery wheel and glazed them until they were speckled and earthy. The jars were always by her door, always on the ledge. Some had pretzels, some had graham crackers. I think sometimes they held nuts, but I’ve blocked that out of my memory. I much preferred the graham crackers.
I remember the city library. It was big, and mysterious and The Wild Things lived there. It smelled like books and dust and old secrets.
I remember outside, and mud pies and freshly squeezed orange juice at Grandma’s house, and the big rock in the field that was our play house until we found a black widow in our living room.
I remember snakes. They were sometimes dead and cut in pieces… lawnmowers will do that. There were other creatures: sheep that seasonally grazed in the field across the house, our dog Nick, baby rabbits found by a burn pile, and occasionally a baby bird that had fallen from the nest before formed feathers.
I had a best friend who lived next door. We would swing; sometimes in my tire, sometimes on her plank swing. I saw the ambulance come to her house and I brought her flowers. I was afraid and swore I would love her forever…we haven’t seen each other for decades.
It wouldn’t matter; childhood fades and suddenly there are no Barbies to share, no swings to play on, and you are left with your personality. I think that’s why it’s easier to be friendly when you are young.
I went to the zoo today, and the trees were old and the shade was speckled. There was a breeze that whispered my childhood, and there were sheep and snakes. The sun soaked into my skin and my children ran and shrieked. Today I was four again.

5 thoughts on “Springtime at the Zoo is Haunted

  1. So much of this reminds me of my childhood… This was beautiful, I really enjoyed it! But chopped up snakes? That sounds nasty! I remember finding an abandoned kitten once, not 2 weeks old, dead and crawling with ants. All I coukd think of back then at the tender age of 9-or-10 was turning back the clock and rescuing it. I was sure that it was something beautiful when it was alive. We cope with some pretty tough stuff when we're kids.

    Back to my point, this post reminded me of my childhood, so much of it is fragmented now, and instead of having stories to tell I have pieces of memories of random things.


  2. Joe: I think my childhood was so full of beauty that tough stuff was hard to reconcile. Maybe that is the core of childhood…the transition from kid stuff to the dark matter that edges life…but anyway, you should put some fragments together too, then I can read about it. (I'll pass on the ants/kitten story though. EW!)
    Thanks Alexis 🙂 can't wait to hear your memories.


  3. This was so beautifully written, JoAnn. I remember hot metal sliding boards. We never found dead snakes but my friend and I would have long, elaborate funerals for dead birds and squirrels that we would find. We took it so seriously. ha ha


  4. I personnaly enjoyed the gruesome juxtaposition of the dead snakes and the playgrounds. Isn't that how life is? Kids get this better than we think they do. I also appreciated your commentary of the misanthropic nature of adulthood. Cheers to a friend I like but never see 🙂


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