“Do you want to go to the zoo?”
Never fails. And yes, we did actually take her to the zoo directly after these photos were taken. Sometimes I think I like it even more than she does, if that is even possible. Those sea otters are the cutest things on the planet. Well, except for basset hounds.
I knew it was coming, and I dreaded it. Somehow, somewhere, I knew that one fateful day Maddie would decide she’d had enough of whatever we were out doing and I’d be on the receiving end of a full-blown meltdown. And on Sunday, in divine timing, it happened.
My husband Patrick, Maddie and I went to Macy’s for the very last day of their annual Flower Show. It’s a huge hit with families because the gardens are beautiful and provide a colorful backdrop for photos. We happily took our place in line, and 25 minutes, two granola bars and an applesauce later, we caught our first glimpse of them. “Look, Madeleine! There’s an elephant!” I said, pointing to a life-sized painted elephant that had been decked out in floral patterns. “Ah-ba! Ooh!” she said excitedly. That was my first mistake.
There were so many people taking pictures and so many people trying to stay out of other people’s pictures, and if there’s one thing you have to know about Minnesotans, it’s that “Minnesota Nice” gets pretty aggressive with a crowd. It was basically like each camera was shooting out a fatal laser beam and so your life depended on avoiding it, resulting in what appeared to be the most awkwardly choreographed flash mob of all time. Because how dare you accidentally walk in front of a digital camera. It’ll take them a whole two seconds to take another shot, and now they only have 97 percent battery life remaining! For shame.
So back to my mistake. All Maddie wanted to do was get as close as possible to the elephant. It seemed perfectly logical to her: she would just crawl through the garden and touch it. So when it became apparent to her that this would not be happening, she wasn’t happy about it. Even worse, that one elephant at the entrance was the only animal figure in the whole place so there was nothing else for a one-and-a-half-year-old to look forward to. (Seriously, Macy’s. Couldn’t you just throw in a giraffe or a sloth or something? Anything!)
Me, while Husband tries to get a decent photo: “Smile Maddie! Ooh, smell the tulips, mmmm, don’t they smell pretty?”
Maddie’s expression: Ummm, where’s the elephant? I can’t see him, there are too many people around. This blows, I’m outta here!
And as quickly as her face had lit up upon seeing that elephant, it furrowed into the most terrifying expression I have witnessed to date. Oh no it’s happening, I thought. The Meltdown is happening and we’re stuck in the middle of this zen garden and people are being freakishly nice and she’s doing that silent cry right before the really loud one and there’s NO WAY OUT!! And I was exactly right. Maddie cried so loud that even the tulips turned in our direction to see what could possibly be the matter. And I’m pretty sure my face turned redder than the poppies. “We’re done,” I said to Patrick, who must have seen the fear in my eyes because he heroically weaved his way through the crowd, camera and stroller in hand as I carried our screaming child through the laser beams.
You would think by this point that all I’d want to do was get out of there. But in a moment of what I can only describe as pure INSANITY, I thought, Well maybe I can get just one good picture of Maddie looking at the elephant before we leave.
Madeleine did not agree. We walked back down the Hallway of Happy Families and made our escape.
To be honest, I did get a better picture of Maddie later on, when we discovered a smaller elephant with flowers on the skyway level. She’s smiling and happy, and isn’t sporting a mute plug. But this one captures the truth. And sometimes the truth is just more refreshing.
Last weekend, our little family ventured out to the zoo. All of us enjoy seeing the animals, and that day was no exception. The snow monkeys were swinging on their jungle gym of branches, the Komodo dragon was warming himself on the heated rocks, and the otters were doing playful laps in their water habitat. Madeleine was content to observe one animal then the next, with equal interest devoted to the other children and babies around her.
But when we reached the aquarium, Madeleine stood transfixed, her forehead pressed up against the glass for a full two minutes. As anyone who’s had a one-year-old knows, this kind of pause is a rare occurrence. To watch as her eyes explored this new underwater world and the beautiful creatures within it was pure magic. We can’t wait to go back.