The Day of the Bear

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It is raining today, and I am sitting here drinking my coffee. My little is at preschool after a bit of a tearful drop off this morning. It was hard to leave, when his little face was all screwed up in a sad face, swallowed up by his yellow duck raincoat. But I kissed his cheek and headed to my car, missing him too.

There is something about rain, right? That makes us more sentimental? Or is that just me? This past summer, Wyatt and I got up and were getting ready for our day, eating breakfast and reading books about bears. This kid loves bears. I was sipping my coffee, looking out the clear blue sky, talking and reading with him as he drank his milk and sort of ate his breakfast.  I thought about the beautiful blue sky outside, and how the days was supposed to be mild, only in the 70s. And I thought, it’s a great day for the zoo! I asked Wyatt if he wanted to go see a bear, right now, today, and he of course told me yes, in the way that he has. He doesn’t say yes, or shake his head yes, but he puts his hand up to his head and moves his hand forward, like he is going to shake his head. When he was a baby, and with his gross motor disabililty, we were showing him how to shake his head, by putting our hands gently on him and showing him how to do it. His takeaway was that you use your hand to manually do it. We know what he is saying though. And I want to add, he says the word no, verbally and very clearly…lol.

So, I left him to finish breakfast and began rushing about the house to get our stuff ready for a day at the zoo with a three year old. All the important stuff went into a backpack, I loaded his stroller and him into the car, and off we went, into the wild blue and green day. The weather was perfect, the music was playing, and then..fifteen minutes from the zoo, the sky opened up and it just started pouring down rain. I had thoughts of Noah and his ark as I headed down the highway. It wasn’t supposed to rain! The forecast never said rain. I called my husband and had him check the weather for me – and he reported that there was seriously one lone rain cloud over where the area I was. And the zoo. He also told me that he thought it would blow over quickly. I decided to keep going. We had decided we were going to see a bear, and we were going to see those bears, rain be damned!

I arrive to a mostly empty zoo, most sane people staying in out of the rain I guess. I headed in to the gift shop and bought a poncho for Wyatt and an umbrella for me. Neither worked out for us. The poncho was too big, and came too close to his face for my liking, and I couldn’t manage to push the stroller and hold the umbrella. But still, we were not giving in. I put the hood up on the stroller to keep him as dry as I could, tucked the poncho around his legs, and kept going, getting wetter and wetter with each step.

And of course, zoos are designed with the Big Attraction animals at the back, to make people walk through the whole thing. I don’t know if that is purposeful, but it seems like it to me. And the Detroit Zoo has an extraordinarily long walk into the actual zoo. So we basically had to walk all the way to the back of the zoo. We took random breaks under trees (it wasn’t storming, just downpouring) and stopped to look at other animals, if there was a shelter for us. But for the most part, we persevered. Wyatt thought it was a blast, honestly. I was soaking wet, and he was wet but we made it to the bears.

And it was awesome. We were the only ones there, just standing there in the rain, looking at the bears. One of the bears was sleeping in the sheltering cave feature, but the other was hanging out in the rain. He had been relaxing, maybe enjoying the cool rain for a bit, and when we arrived, he looked up at us. And there we were, the three of us, in a downpour, all looking at each other. It was a moment that I feel I will remember forever. Wyatt and I looked at each other, smiling, then back at the bear, who kept his steady brown gaze on us. Maybe he thought we were nuts. Maybe he wanted us to go away, as he had been enjoying the solitude, although we were not talking or making any noise. It was sort of..pure. Powerful. It was so quiet, just the sound of the rain pattering away on the umbrella and the trees. There was no attempt to grab a photo, especially with my arms full of preschooler and an umbrella. Nothing to distract from the moment.

We stood there a little bit, not too long, but long enough. Eventually Wyatt went back into his stroller, all tucked up, eating his goldfish which somehow he could eat without them getting soggy, and we slogged back to the car. But it felt different now. At least for me. I felt more carefree and less upset about the rain. I guess though once you are wet enough, who cares? I wonder if the morning would have been the same had I had our raincoats. I kind of think it wouldn’t have been.

Now when it rains, I think about the bear, and standing in the rain with my son, all alone, looking at a bear who was looking back at us.

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