At first glance, this will seem like a picture-heavy post that lightly pokes fun at the fact that our town's "zoo" features nothing more exciting than a few squawking peacocks and a couple of monkeys (but I'll love it forever anyway).
In reality, this post is about friendship and saying goodbye and moving on and feeling left behind, just a little bit.
To start off with, this post is overdue. Like, a pregnant-woman-at-43-weeks overdue.
(Because we actually went to the zoo back in May, like when I was still a full-time teacher and Matt was still working just part-time and blah blah blah.)
This story doesn't really start in May, though. Actually, this story doesn't even start in this year, nor even in this country.
It starts all the way back when I was unmarried and serving a mission in Central America (El Salvador, to be exact). It starts with me meeting the tall gringa who would become my favorite mission companion (as well as the companion that I would spend the most months with).
Her name was Hermana Beckett, and even though she was easily four inches taller than me and had a totally different skin tone and face structure and hair color, people thought we were sisters (literal sisters, that is, not just sisters in the gospel sense).
In addition to the usual mission stuff (serving, teaching, etc.), we had a blast treating ourselves to huge ice cream sundaes anytime we hit an important milestone, getting cheap pedicures on our days off, and attempting to double boil a cake on the stove (since we had no oven), a feat that surprisingly actually turned out pretty well the first time we tried it.
We were inseparable (and not just because it was in the mission rules that we basically had to go everywhere together), and when she was eventually transferred to a different area after several months, I'm sure there were probably some tears. (I can guarantee that she cried, anyway, and since I'm often a sympathetic crier, I was probably a goner, too.)
Fast forward several years, after we were both married, and after we had only been so-so about staying in touch, despite our many promises to the contrary. I was sitting next to Matt in church, and the meeting had just ended. A familiar voice behind me called out, a bit uncertainly, "Hermana Fedor?"
It was a name I hadn't been called in years, and I turned around to see that most beloved friend, with her new husband looking (shyly) on. They had moved in literally just a block away from our front door, unbeknownst to either of us.
That chance Sunday encounter was followed up by games (and treats) together that very night, a Sunday tradition that just kept on going, even when they moved across town a couple years later.
Eventually, that friend (who shall henceforth be known as Mary) and I had our daughters within months of each other, with me actually being present at the birth of hers. Over the past year, we went to weekly hip hop aerobics together, saw each other frequently (as she was watching Raven for us a couple days every week while I was at work), and planned dinner parties and picnics and occasional double dates out.
I've mentioned before that it can be hard, as an adult, to find close friends--you no longer have the convenience of school to bring you together with the same people every day, and the routines of adult life, including children's nap times, work, and household responsibilities tend to get in the way.
Matt and I had been lucky enough before to find a couple who we got along so well with, but then they went and moved to Texas, so the Majors had moved in at just the right time, when we were still mourning the loss of our other friends.
And now, three years later, they, too, are gone--
And this trip to the zoo--although no one said it aloud--was kind of our last hurrah, as they would shortly be taking a job down south, a little over two hours away.
Oh, I don't mean to say that we'll never see each other again--we'll make it a point to get together a couple times a year or so (more, if we can swing it), and I will love those times.
But this particular visit to our little local zoo marked the ending of an era, and an era that I am definitely having a hard time saying goodbye to (especially now that I actually have loads and loads of time on my hands that we could have put to good use, having picnic play dates in the park and not having to end our game nights so early on account of my 5:15 wake-up time during the school year).
So Mary (and Aaron), this is just to say that we miss you guys, and that we sure are grateful for the three years we got to jam together.
(And remember, one day when we're really wealthy, we'll buy up a whole neighborhood of houses, and we'll make sure you guys get one of the first picks at places.)
On a lighter note, thank goodness for technology, eh? (Especially since I'm terrible at following through half the time on actually getting together in person with people.)
And thank you, Willow Park Zoo, for being small and quaint and basically awesome, despite your lack of exotic creatures.
(And Mary, you'd better not be crying while reading this...although I maybe have already cried a couple times, dangit...)
Good luck with your next adventure, Majors!
(And to end---the greatest picture ever, taken as we all refused to say goodbye and put our kids into their carseats already
even though we'd been standing around for about 25 minutes.)