Once I had finally persuaded my father to take me to the zoo, and as soon as we had stepped down from the front step of the trolley, which kindly stopped right in front of the gilded and ornamented gate, I stomped my little five-year-old foot on the floor and demanded that we go at once to see the elephant. He smiled in his acquiescent and gentle nature and bent down offering me a privileged view from the seat of his shoulders, and we marched imperially under the ornamented arch that spelled-out “Zoo”, a name which represented then, to me, a wonderful and undiscovered land.
My eyes wandered, however, from cage to cage, resting upon monkeys, birds, and kangaroos! And, more than once, my resolve to march straight away to the abode of my favored pachyderm was shaken, but I had my reasons to go on. Convinced that he must be the greatest of all living mammals (I insisted whales were fish), and a direct and close descendant of the dinosaurs themselves. Although all fauna were the object of my fascination, it was the elephant who, for me, must be their steward, watching over them from his height, appearing at once mild and ominous: clawless, gentle-featured, with a comical and mobile nose; but large, imperious, daunting.
In child time, it took us, perhaps, a million hours to get to his cage, and I, unhesitating and repeatedly, informed my dad. Now I see it must have been a matter of some ten minutes, the large mammals were at the far-off section of the zoo, and my father bore a heavy burden. Informed that we were drawing near his cage, my heart leapt and began some type of drum roll in my chest, which grew faster and, curiously, more irregular, as we approached. I shivered and held fast to my father’s obliging neck, as I felt, perhaps, like the princess in my favorite tale, I should faint, and then fall unto the cement passageway.
The venerable pachyderm, seeming to divine my adoration, appeared to waken from his listless sunbathing, and walked towards me in silence. His beady and scrutinizing eyes at once caught mine own, from a height, and he produced what, in my childish estimation, was a certain smile of recognition. I jumped off my father, ran, and held fast to the bars, as he warned me to let go and stay at a safe distance. I guess he pulled me off gently, as I was mesmerized by the magnificent beast, whose glance had persuaded me that we were, alas, kindred spirits, and, that in seeing me, he too had felt a shiver, an answer to longing, a sense of recognition and encounter.
Then, he raised his magnificent head, his curved trunk ascending into the air and exposing bright marble tusks. His voice filled the air and I jumped in joy, turning to my father. “Look, daddy. The elephant! The elephant!” My father smiled, “Yes. Big,hunh? Is it as big as you thought it would be?” “Dad, he’s huge! HUGE!” I spread my arms apart, much wider than they could reach, and laughed in ecstasy. Life and existence were full of sense and meaning and, if there were nothing else, life would still be fully justified, nay fulfilled, by the existence of an elephant.