One of the joyful experiences of our recent trip to California was our visit to the Chaffee Zoo in Fresno. Gary’s brother had a season pass to the zoo and loved to attend their events. Finding that pass in his wallet reminded me of how many happy hours we’ve all spent at the zoo. Gary and I both have fond memories of childhood visits. We grew up during the years when animals were housed in deplorable conditions, but we could also touch, feed, and interact with them. We felt a deep connection to them, especially Nosey, the elephant purchased with money collected by the community. The plaque on her pen read ‘Nosey, Given in 1949 to the city of Fresno by the children of the San Joaquin Valley”. I felt like she was one of my pets.
We took our children to the zoo on a regular basis. It was cheap, relaxing entertainment and the zoo made many improvements over the years. The monkey exhibit and the “big cat” house were two of our favorite displays. And of course the zoo was always a great place for photography. When I took a class in 1990 I went straight to the park to complete my first assignment.
We visited the zoo with our grandchildren when they were little, and I assumed that would probably be their last visit. However, I was thrilled to hear that our youngest grandchild, now an adult, returned to the zoo with a friend just a couple of weeks ago.
Being at the zoo once again had a calming effect on both of us. The sights, sounds, and smells were familiar and soothing. Watching young families with their children was a reminder that life goes on and there is still goodness in the world. Walking where Mike had walked was a reassurance that some of his life was pleasant and brought him happiness. And seeing the impressive new African habitat served as a promise that the future will be even better than the past and that families will continue to make lasting memories with their loved ones.