Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Zoo

One of the few family outings that we are all able to enjoy is the zoo. Unlike the store, or church, or parties, or social functions, L. is in his element there. He has an obsession with animals. Many children who have autism obsess over something. A friend I met at a book club in Pennsylvania has an adult son that knows everything there is to know about sports. My friend Lala's son loves all things weather. My younger son H. was infatuated with letters when he began to read, now it's musical notes.
This love for animals began when he was very young. He would hardly speak to us, but he would go over and over the names of animals. One evening as my husband and I were watching the Discovery Channel they flashed some footage of an animal we had never seen before. I said to my husband, "What is that thing?" My husband replied that he didn't know. Then, out of nowhere, L. said, "Wombat." And by gosh it was.
We decided that since we could enjoy the zoo as a whole family unit, and L. was generally on his best behavior, we would purchase a season membership, which we use quite frequently. The best days are snow days, rainy days, cool days, because no one else really ventures out and we have the park nearly to ourselves. In accordance with his scheduled route, we fight him to go to the first monkey house, only to rush through the second monkey exhibit, so that we can get to the elephants, his absolute favorite animal of all time. He tells us, "Elephants are the biggest land mammal on the earth." We move on to the Peccaries. ( I just asked my husband 'what those pig things are call at the zoo', and he thought I said 'what are those big tall things made of poo?')
As we navigate throughout the park he proceeds to tell us some snippet about each animal. He's a real walking encyclopedia. The penguins, for instance, "are birds that can't fly, but they can swim". Then we get to the giraffes. "They are the tallest land mammal on the earth". And so on and so forth.
The only time I've seen him ever break his announcer style commentary on the animals was when I took him to see the Gorillas on a day when it was just he and I and his baby sister. After pressing his face to the glass for some time, observing with an intensity that I relish, the Gorilla did something a little disturbing. He ate his own excrement. L. said, "Oh, yuck! Don't eat poop! That's yucky!"
Smart Kid.

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