ten years from now, you might not remember that sweltering thursday morning in may where you were squealing with laughter as we ran across the narrow pathway at a nearby zoo. holding my hand as i gripped your little fingers, i coaxed, “faster, baby! we gotta hurry!”
i don’t think i will ever forget the delight of listening to your peal of laughter as you asked, “why are we running, janjan?!”
we were running because we were 15 minutes late. we were supposed to be there at 9 to join el-el’s class field trip at crocolandia. you ate and dressed rather slow and i wasn’t exactly any better in helping you pick out which outfit to wear. i wanted you to wear that colorful dress that screams summer but then you reminded me, with the impatient know-it-all of a grown woman, “no, i can’t wear that ‘coz el-el said i have to wear something with sleeves. there might be mosquitoes there.”
sometimes i forget that you’re just 5 years old.
and, yes, thanks to filipino time, we made it just in the nick of time. and by that, i mean that we were able to watch the first highlight of the trip: feeding of the crocodiles. they were fed dead chickens attached to a string attached to a pole. not exactly a pretty sight to see but it didn’t even faze you so i guess i was merely being unnecessarily emo while you were being really mature about it.
crocolandia might not be that big of a zoo but i had the most amazing time learning new things there with you. i told you heaps of facts about the animals that we saw but to be brutally honest, i cheated. everything i told you was basically just a summary of the information that i read on the written description hung on their respective cages.
then again, judging from the questions you asked me, your mind worked in such a complex but beautiful way.
“why isn’t the baby crocodile with her mama?”
“is the baby crocodile big enough to live without her mama?”
“why is the tortoise hiding inside there?”
and, oh, how brave you were to hold that slithering snake in your hands, even when you told me at the start that you didn’t wanna touch it. at the end of the activity, guess who had a snake hung around her shoulders? you stood stiffly the whole time waiting for me while i wrestled with my camera to get that perfect blur-free shot of you and your little friend. you were such a good sport and i was so proud of you.
i was even prouder when you overcame your shyness and raised your hand to ask the zookeeper the questions you whispered to me while he showed the group the different parts of a snake, as well as that of a preserved sea turtle.
“why is the sea turtle stuffed with cotton?”
“why does the snake stick out its tongue?”
i applaud him for answering your questions in a way that was appropriate for your age, save for the highly technical terms he used when he obviously ran out of simplified words to say.
but i was stunned when you suddenly asked me, “what happens to sea turtles when they die?”
i’m glad that with your flight of ideas, you moved on to another question while i quietly picked my jaw and my dignity off the floor. you must have noticed i started stammering.
in my defense, i did try my best to entertain and answer all your questions to the best of my ability. but, you know.
i do find your curious mind charming.
although your discerning mind laughed us off when el-el and i told you the cat in front of you was a baby tiger. you didn’t just take everything in — hook, line, and sinker. except, perhaps, for that split-second look in your eye that silently wondered if your aunts were actually telling the truth.
of all the creatures you saw there, you said these birds were your favorite after commenting that they have such pretty colors. so much so that you took the liberty of naming them friendly and rainbow.
but friendly wasn’t really all that friendly, though. most of the time, it was hiding in the box as rainbow and my tapping noises tried to coax it out.
they were your favorite, nonetheless.
hands down, my favorite would have to be the peacock.
i remember the last time you were here. you were chasing and feeding peacocks at eden park in davao. i asked you if you remember that particular trip.
hopefully, this time around, you will.