This post needs a soundtrack because it's gotten this song stuck in my head.
LE loves going to the zoo. No big surprises there because he's a little kid and that's what they're like. It's worth bundling everyone up for an evening trip to the Oregon Zoo around Christmas because they have the Zoo Lights, which is an elaborate display of carefully non-denominational Christmas lights with and animal theme.
In 2008, the Big Event at the zoo was that the baby elephant was born. Despite his freaky eyes, he's really cute, as baby elephants should be.
Last year, we braved the hordes of people coming to the zoo in the peak summer season to get a look at the baby elephant. We even dragged LE along, and he was all "Meh," because, never having seen a grown-up elephant, he couldn't see what was so great about a baby one and anyway, he was still shaken by the orangutan that had come right up to the window where LE was sitting in his stroller. LE cried because the orangutan was much bigger close up, and probably pretty terrifying from his perspective.
But on a freezing winter evening shortly after Christmas, hardly anyone wants to see the baby elephant. LE was able to weave through the knees of a few onlookers and get right up against the window where he pointed and shouted "Mama! Emesis!" about 40 times. "Emesis" means "elephant." It's an evocative word, somewhere between "emetic" and "nemesis," neither of which have to do with elephants but it makes you think.
I kept up one of those Mommy-toddler dialogues which you can never believe you will initiate until you have a kid. That's because kids get interested in certain aspects of otherwise mundane things. In this case, besides the MAMA elephant, there was the interesting BABY elephant who was ASLEEP and whose mother was trying to WAKE HIM UP. All the things in caps are things LE thinks are extremely interesting. And of course I think it's cute and thrilling when LE is interested in something, so there I am going, "Is that a baby elephant? Look, he's sleeping! Look, his mama wants him to wake up!" Other parents were having similar conversations throughout the room.
And it was all rather nice, the mama elephant gently nudging the baby one, and the baby one wriggling but refusing to wake up. Then the mother went and got some water and sprayed it on the floor near the baby with her trunk, and he woke up and had a drink and everyone went "Awww."
Then the mama elephant took a huge dump and let fly a massive elephant stream of pee.
Then the baby elephant did the same.
All over the room kids were turning their heads up to their parents wondering if it was okay to comment on this wonderfully scatological elephant behavior. Most parents opted to be grown-ups about it and say nothing, though a few had to answer their kids with something like "Yes, the elephant went potty on the floor."
LE was just agape. "LE, did you see that?" I asked him.
"That?" he said, pointing at the poop with the question look on his face.
"Yep," I said. "That's poo."
"Poo!" he said. Poo is another thing LE finds extremely interesting.
So I was totally the Bad, Not-At-All Grown-Up parent in the elephant room.
Then it got better. The baby elephant went to the mama elephant's poop and started poking at it with his trunk. The kids grew even more desperate to talk about this. A few whispered to their parents, but for the most part, they were a very polite little bunch who knew they weren't supposed to talk about poop even in a situation like this.
Some of the parents could no longer pretend to be grown-up, and they started snickering and going "Oh, no, he wouldn't. That's not going to happen."
And then it totally happened.
That's right. The baby elephant ate the mama elephant's poo. Everyone went "Uugh!" in disgust, and even the most prudish of parents had to confirm to their curious little ones that poo-eating was indeed going on. Some stupid woman in front of me attempted to ruin this wonderful moment with Education by telling her kids that the reason the baby elephant was eating the poo was because it contained important bacteria, which I figured was either a crock of shit or something she learned on the Discovery Channel, but in any case her kids were having none of it and were happily exclaiming, "He ate the poo! He ate the poo!"
LE was as delighted as I was. "Baby emesis eat Mama poo!" he said. And continues to say every time he sees an elephant.
I don't know when I'll develop these parental limits other people seem to have about what one's kid should and shouldn't discuss in public. Letting LE talk about elephant poop might come back to bite me in the ass someday, but I never, ever want to be one of those people whose kid is trained to not talk about something as completely fabulous and disgusting as the baby elephant eating his mother's poop.
It was a very good trip to the zoo.