We arrive at the zoo on Saturday for the big Festival of Lights and I call my step-daughter to arrange a rendezvous.
“As soon as we find a bathroom for Kylie,” I say, “we’ll meet you at the Elephant House.
Shay tells me where the bathroom is (to the right of the entrance and down the hill) and, using these very misleading directions, we eventually find a toilet.
Potty break dealt with, we climb back up the hill to the Asian rotunda that has always housed the elephants. No sign of Shay. I call her again.
“Where are you?” she says.
"I’m standing next to the Elephant House, across from the new Forest exhibit."
“What Forest exhibit?” she says. “We’re right outside the Asian Experience.”
It can’t just be the Elephant House anymore, no, now it has to be the Asian Experience.
“I’m standing next to the wooden polar bear cutout, with the signs pointing to Santa’s Holiday Village and the North Pole Post Office,” I say.
“Stay where you are,” she says. “I’ll send Jeff to find you.”
So I wait. And I wait. In the meantime, Bill and Kylie make a circuit around the Elephant House. (Four-year-olds are lousy at waiting and fifty-four year olds aren’t much better.)
Ten minutes later, Shay calls back.
“Where are you?” she asks again. “Can you see the North American Habitat?”
“I’m right by the entrance,” I say. “You know, big sign, PNC Bank Festival of Lights.”
“PNC Bank? American Electric is sponsoring this.”
“Not in Cincinnati.”
“Well, they are in Columbus.”
I pause a moment while that sinks in.
“We’re going to stop looking for you now,” I say. “Enjoy yourselves.”
So our little party checks out the elephants, who stand with their backsides turned toward us, giving me a nasty flashback to the last time I tried on swimsuits in front of a three-way-mirror. We visit the cathouse, the reptiles and even pause for a respectful moment at the shrine to Maggie, the last of the passenger pigeons. (You don’t have to like something to recognize its significance.) After writing a thank-you note to Santa and playing on the jungle gym, we’re ready to head home.
All night long, Bill made Kylie hold my hand “so Grandma won’t get lost.”
I still say we would have been fine if we’d just made it to the right city.