For years I’ve wanted to take the kids to Wildlife Safari, but it’s just far enough south that it never made sense to try and pack it into a trip from Seattle. Someday when we live closer, I used to think, a little morosely. Was I sad about not being within easy driving distance of what was surely an overpriced, cheesy operation filled with depressed animals pacing restless circles in their horrible enclosures which were roiling with exhaust fumes and peppered with junk food thrown from car windows? Yes I was, dammit.
It took us a year, but we finally made a trip of it this weekend — and as it turns out, Wildlife Safari isn’t depressing at all. It’s actually pretty goddamned great: filled with contented-looking beasts, beautifully located in a pocket of Eden-like greenery among southern Oregon’s gorgeous rolling hills, and at $60 for the four of us, not a bad deal considering we spent at least a couple of satisfying hours there.
We stayed the night in Roseburg just to make the visit last longer, and found a place on the Umpqua to play during Saturday’s summery weather.
Everything about this weekend — the pretty drive, the fun of exploring a new town, the delight on the kids’ faces when they saw the animals, even the tumble and chaos of sharing a hotel room — was perfect. The sort of memories I wish I could flatten between the pages of a book, run my finger over them years from now and remember everything exactly as it was.
After almost a year of guiltily avoiding extracurricular activities, we’ve become fully immersed in Soccer Parenting. I mean, not that there’s a lot TO it, exactly, other than making the initial gear investment then driving to and from various wet fields each week, but it feels milestone-y nonetheless. The first time JB and I were sitting on the side of a game in our folding chairs — water bottle, extra coat, and camera in hand — I found myself thinking that in that exact moment of time the whole “It all goes so fast!” thing didn’t ring true at all. The lanky big kid running around after a ball and high-fiving his teammates bore very little resemblance to the tiny blatting creature I used to ferry around in a bicep-destroying car seat. Right then, it felt like all seven years had passed in the exact amount of time they were supposed to: 365 days per, one after the other. It was strangely soothing.
Also soothing, maybe particularly after the sort of week that just happened, is looking around at all the other parents sitting in their own folding chairs. I don’t know, it reminds me of the sort of warm rush I’d get when I used to pick my boys up from daycare and I’d watch the other parents doing the same thing, how there was this big palpable whomp of pure love happening. Every game and practice, we adults huddle on the side of the action, alternately shivering and sweating in the capricious spring weather that thinks nothing of chasing an icy blast of rain-spattered wind with a beam of jeans-boiling sunshine, and you can practically see the heart-shaped dotted lines connecting parents’ eyes with their boy on the field. Even as the hour drags on and everyone secretly daydreams a bit about the forty billion things they’d rather be doing, we sit there and joyously yell mostly nonsensical supportive things (”Nice footwork!”) and break out into scattered, energetic applause. Like we’re watching a series of surprising and utterly delightful magic tricks.