I am writing this at 4 am sitting by my youngest’s bedside, Yesterday was a fabulous day from the parents perspective and from his I suspect had a high degree of suck. We are at DisneyWorld right now and my wife arranged for us to take an end of day safari. This is a new offering from DisneyWorld’s Animal Kingdom and it was a limited person safari (just 10 people) that finished with a private meal on a viewing platform in the middle of Animal Kingdom’s Serengeti area. We had a fantastic guide, Jason, who was not only knowledgeable but just plain beyond entertaining. My boys liked him so well that they even wanted his picture with him at the end.

Here are the animals we saw

  • birds, birds, birds and more birds
  • giraffes
  • wildebeests
  • elephants
  • zebras
  • springboks
  • a rhino
  • hyenas
  • rabbits (ok Florida native but still, bunnies!)
  • Lions sitting proudly out in the rain - clearly not water phobic house cats

And that’s just what I can blearily remember as I’m sitting up with him. On the way back there was even a torrential rainstorm and it made off us feel like we were in deepest Africa. My oldest kept making media references like “Jurassic Park” and others. And, according to our guide, rain brings out the critters and it sure did.

Why, you ask, if the boys liked it so well would my youngest describe it as “a high degree of suck”. Well the poor little guy didn’t take too well to the food. The meal was all African inspired and by the walk out of the park he was looking queasy. And, horrifyingly, on the cab home he had reached full on exorcist level of spewage – yes I caught it all in my hands using a Disney poncho as a mock bucket. He then spent the rest of the night vomiting repeatedly. I think the issue was the food because the last time we had African food at Disney, Booma, I didn’t even make it out of the parking lot before I lost my entire meal in much the same fashion. I think he clearly got my stomach.

Now since my youngest has been raised in an environment of media on demand (thanks Plex and Roku), video games (thanks iPad) and similar distractions there were times when he was bored - “No you can’t play Pokemon Go when we’re on Safari!”. And then there was the whole exorcist level of spewage so that is why I think he would, today, describe it as a “high level of suck”. But I’m going to put on my parental “look into the future goggles” and predict that in 15 or 20 years this will be one of his fondest childhood memories.

Why would I make such a claim given the tale above? Well it just so happens that I have a similar childhood memory - actually a set of childhood memories - around when my father and I used to go duck hunting. Starting when I was in fifth grade, my Dad and I used to take off for a week and go down to the eastern shore of Maryland to stay in a cabin on an island, Fishhook Island and go duck hunting. We had a professional guide, John Holgrapher, and, at the time, these were miserable experiences for a 10 year old boy:

  • I remember being so cold that I would crawl in the very nose of the boat under what little decking there was and breathe on my hands to keep them from freezing
  • I wasn’t old enough to use a gun for the first two years so there was, well, just waiting around; no toys, electronics, books or anything; just waiting

So that would be my equivalent child hood memory to M’s Safari. And, yeah it was miserable, as I look back on it. But those few, precious trips with my father, are some of favorite memories of growing up with him. I’ve told the tales to my wife and kids over and over again:

  • Sitting at the long breakfast table in the cabin doing my homework and listening to AM radio – that’s where I was when I learned that Mark David Chapman had killed John Lennon
  • Being trapped out by low tide shifts on a full moon from 3 pm past 4 am and having to cook our dinner - a duck we had shot hours earlier - on a campfire that I started
  • Seeing an enormous flight of 30 plus black duck settle into our decoys and our not getting even one of them (buck fever); my Dad who grew up hunting with his Dad hadn’t seen such a large flight of black duck in over 25 years
  • Hunting with my grand uncle and his best friend
  • Rising before the sun - 3 am - to be out in the duck blind before the birds could see us
  • Getting into a tiny aluminum skiff and setting out for the blind in total darkness and yet the guide always getting us precisely there on the first try; to this day I don’t know how
  • Hearing our guide ask us “You like oysters?” and then reach over the side of the boat and pull up, with his bare hands, what seemed like a half bushel which he fed us on the spot. He then, I kid you not, reached into his chest high waders and pulled out a bottle of cocktail sauce. First oyster I ever ate,
  • Being connected to the mainland only by a CB radio so we were really, truly alone for a week at a time
  • No bathing facilities at all - we used to get home from a week’s hunting and stinking to high heaven

I could go on. I have like 20 of my most precious memories and they are all rooted in those trips. I suspect that fifteen or twenty years from now, M will tell the tale of the Disney Safari and how his parents took him to see tigers, giraffes and elephants oh my! And how we headed back thru a rain storm so fierce that it came thru the roof the jeep we were in. I hope he leaves out the spew just as I never mention the cold and the waiting.