Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Australia (Part Seven): of beaks and fins

Wednesday, June 7th: where the emu lurks

Home the triumphant sleeper. The Eldest had had his first sleepover , courtesy of the Grandmere, who established her cred as potential sleepdate during her daylong grandmaternal time. A child who'd always refused to spend time in another's bed (saving my own), the Eldest returned delighted and determined to do it again. He did, too, the night after my grandmother's 90th birthday bash, and he professed himself extremely satisfied with the results.

We collected the Pater from the airport, and whisked him and the Grandmere (at a fairly sedate pace, as whisking goes) off to Healesville Sanctuary, a nice zoo alternative about 1.5 hours away. I remembered there being only a token bit of wood, at about shin height between me and the various kangaroos and emus, but clearly things have changed. Now there was a waist height bit of fencing, and tall fenced-in enclosures (with doors for us to enter by). The Pater grumbled about going so far for the sanctuary and I quietly echoed him, but the Eldest, running back and forth between exhibits, silenced us all.

Mouth open around his thumb, the Eldest stared at goannas, koalas, platypuses, a shrieking wedge-tailed eagle defending her turf, a swooping owl, emus horking deep in their long, long throats and an extremely shy lyre bird, whose mate was crankily pacing high on the fence above. She's nesting, the keeper told me. I considered any number of other feminine options for her behaviour and wisely kept my mouth shut.

The Toddles lacked his brother's sense of awe, or possibly just his quiet, and was bubbling over with opinions. Pah-push! Pah-Push! he shrieked at the platypuses, entirely unmoved by the sign that said, 'Please be Quiet. Do Not Startle the Animals.' Startled by the firm little voice coming from about knee-height, we all looked down. The Toddles ignored us, tracing with his arms the diving and swimming of the platypuses. Swoop, across, up, turn. Swoop, across, up, turn. The wild birds of prey merited an equally strong response: No! Go! Now! he instructed us, and helpfully pointed to the (locked) exit. And of course there was, 'kowwas,' offered in hushed tones as we watched a sleepy koala dangle himself, stretch, twist and slowly reach for a particularly yummy leaf.

We drove home as the sun set, oh so romantically over acres of vineyards, some with rosebushes dotting the edges of the grapevines. Home, home, home - except for the Eldest, eyeing the calendar for his next nocturnal adventure.

Thursday, June 8th: liquid entertainment

This would be one of our last free days in Oz, with sabbath prep looming and then the blur of my grandmother's birthday bash, the Unc's big book launch and departure. Accordingly, we headed off to the Aquarium.

First time to the Aquarium, is it? asked the helpful person accepting the (rather large) entry fees. Yes, we told him. And are you Canadian? he asked. Um, no - we're from the US. From Boston. He thought this over. D'you have aquariums in America, then? We stared at him. Boston's Aquarium is a big, lovely beastie of a thing, and the Eldest and the Man have spent any number of happy hours there. Um, yes. We have one not far from us. The young man considered the possible merits of our local aquarium and confidently said, Well, I think you'll like this one. We were certainly willing to try.

The Melbourne Aquarium is quite nice, if a bit small. We circled through it twice, then tripled back for a better look at a few feeding sessions. The Man glared at me when I made my habitual dash for the gift shop (I adore gift shops, and always feel - naively - that they have the potential to hold wonderful, glorious things. They usually don't.), and we emerged into the balmy Melbourne day shortly before lunch. I maintain, however, that the whole thing was worth the effort and the cost purely on the strength of the Aquarium's big tank, with a glass roofed tunnel snaking its way through. Over our heads, giant rays lazily flapped along, while sharks moved with purpose. We lose about 20 or so fish a month, a diver told us, despite doing our best to keep the sharks fed. I could believe it.

The Eldest stared at the various divers, picking up empty shells, waste, feeding the fish. I want to learn to do that, he said, thoughtfully. Luckily for the kidlet, Mary Jr stands ready to teach him to swim this June, but I suspect it'll be a while before his hematologists let him play with sharks and other toothy creatures. Assuming he asks them instead of ME.

Back at home, the Toddles snuggled up for a post-prandial sip. He'd been doing a pretty good imitation of a barnacle on the trip, assuming a barnacle could howl every time its father picked him up or its mother moved outside of the Approved Six Inch Radius. Sigh. Quietly, the Eldest reversed his parental preferences to come and lean against my side. He grinned at his brother. Mouth full of maternal bits, the Toddles grinned back.

Whisper, whisper, whisper said the Eldest. Whisper, whisper, whisper said the Toddles, grinning even more widely. The Eldest looked up at me. We're twins, he said. I raised my best maternal eyebrow at him. Ah. And you are telling each other your boy-secrets, then, are you? The Eldest thought this over. Yes.

That night, a mystery: on the tram tracks we saw three cars rolling by. Restaurant 1 read the first. Restaurant 2, Restaurant 3 - we counted them as they passed us. Wonder what they were?


dykewife said...

your grandmother is only a little bit over 5 years older than my dad. it sounds like the entire vacation, though tiring, was a great success. years from now, when most of the trip is forgotten, eldest is going to remember his first sleep-over and who it was with. he may not remember details, but he'll remember the feelings that went with it. :)

purple_kangaroo said...

Aww, it sounds great.