This week's prompt for Illustration Friday is "The Zoo." I can't hear that word without remembering The Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, near where I grew up. I was only six years old in this photo, 1959. This is Mabel, the matriarch of the gorilla colony at Franklin Park. She and I were good friends right from the start. We used to talk about what we'd do when we'd get out into that big world waiting for us . (I could talk to animals all of my life.) She worried about her little one, Hank, but she knew that there would be a better world waiting for him without barriers and barricades. He'd have better opportunities than she had. He wouldn't have to live in the confines of the city. It just didn't seem right to sit in the short, mown grass and watch cars go by. Not right at all. Yeah, Hank would do just fine as long as he could find his way out.
As soon as my parents and I got to the zoo I could smell the popcorn and roasted peanuts mixed with the smell of the monkeys and elephants. It was heaven to me! My six year old hands would grasp the cold bars of the monkeys' cages while they looked at me, anticipating a treat of some kind. I'd name them all and make plans for each and every one of us to meet again. I'd run to the aviary filled with the most magnificently colored birds that filled the air with their shrieking, shrilling calls.
Franklin Park Zoo was a much needed escape from my hard life at home. It's amazing to me that my parents even took me there. It just tells me that in spite of the hard times, they tried. They really did the best they could. But it was Mabel who taught me to be strong.
I used to pick flowers for Mabel whenever I got the chance to go to the zoo to see her. As you can see, I would stand beside her and we'd talk for hours, sharing secrets and planning life's strategies. She was the heart and soul of Franklin Park.
We moved around a lot when I was growing up and I never got to say goodbye to Mabel. She knew I had to follow my parents as a youngster, but she also knew I'd grow up to be okay. She often comes to me in my dreams and I wake up laughing, not being able to tell anyone I felt gorilla breath on me last night and how wonderful it was!
You know, Mabel and I weren't suited for the city yet somehow we found each other and gave each other strength and hope. Man oh man, that's what life is all about.
Thank you, Mabel.
Love always, Lolo