You know when you've just "had it." I'd "had it." Enough was enough. This country excursion was meant to be a fun, family outing, and instead had been simply grueling, expensive, and hot. Really hot. Early into my unexpected motherhood--married at 23, now with two kids at 25--I had been casting envious eyes on couples laughing together, pointing at exhibits and talking like grown-ups, jumping on rides with height requirements without a second thought. Couples that had been us, two short years ago. But now... we had two babies we loved and adored and seemingly no free time. No freedom, period. Weighed down by diaper bags and nap schedules, we had had so few breaks, with very, very infrequent childcare. And I had had absolutely no "me" time, for months.
There was only one thing I wanted to do.
"Dan, I'm leaving. I'm going to ride the elephant. No, I'm going alone, not dragging the kiddos to the other end of this ginormous place in these crowds. I'm just gonna go, ride the elephant, and come back here, okay?"
Dazed by whirling gears and heat, my husband readily agreed. Bouncing off a couple bales of straw, Annemarie was enchanted. Claire was snoozing sweatily in the stroller.
And I was off, alone in the crowds. The feeling was delicious. Without any coaxing or stroller maneuvers, I could slip nimbly between popcorn carts and gaggles of teens. I could pause to watch milking contests without setting up an alternative, more exciting, preschool-approved distraction. I could sample roasting nuts, savoring the smell and taste without demands for a chocking hazard allergen. I could be simply Katie, if only for a half hour.
And I could ride an elephant.
Sometimes, when all things mommyish have gotten to me, I find it really helps to do something completely and totally out of the norm. Thus, I highly recommend riding exotic animals to any care-warn parent. It will help, really. And I bet you haven't tried it, huh? Tsk tsk...
For being such a powerful panacea of parenting peace, the line to ride a very warm animal in a very hot tent wasn't nearly as long as I expected. $15 was a lot for a two minute circle on a magic carpet, in my opinion, but I was still game. Elated all the way till I was presented with the ladder used to mount the beast.
I don't like heights. But I'd be darned if I was backing down now. Putting one hand against the dusty, leathery grey skin, I reached up to grab the rope hanging from the reddish, carpet-like saddle. And I scrambled up somehow.
I didn't realize how much of a split one does when riding an elephant. It's considerable. And despite the rug-like saddle and bar to hang on to, well elephant hairs are really prickly. And man, this was high up...
I looked past the flapping ears, down to the trunk wrapped around a stick held by a tiny looking trainer. The world shifted, and I was moving, in large, dizzying, swaying motions, each step daring a shift that would lurch me off the side. But I didn't. I held that bar. I rode that elephant. And grinned widely the whole time too, patting the beast in what I hoped was a thankful and encouraging manner.
Getting down was just as much as an adrenalin rush. The world of normal height seemed oddly off-kilter after riding a creature so wonderfully colossal. I smiled my way back to the tent of tractor gears.
"So. You rode an elephant?" Dan pulled a filthy straw out of Annemarie's mouth and ignored the wailing protest for a moment to look at me.
"And loved it!"
Naturally, within two minutes, I had a moment of mommy guilt. This phenomena occurs whenever a mom does anything nice just for herself, particularly if she has had no "me" time in eons. I felt guilt for spending $15 on this odd bucket list item which could have been used to buy yet more treats for my children. I felt guilty for all of 3.2 seconds, and then banished the feeling as absurd.
I decided, once and for all time, that every mom deserves to ride an elephant.
I also resolved that my girls would one day share this unique joy. And two years later, I made it happen. Of course, I didn't have a camera--again--but a kind stranger took pics and emailed me this shot.
"Every good and perfect gift is from above." James 1:17