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Lean on Me

October 16, 2018

Another Way for week of October 12, 2018

Lean on Me: Two Boys and Two Grandparents’ Adventure at the Zoo

Have you ever gone on an adventure unsure if you were up to the task? Maybe a zipline, a whitewater trip, or perhaps a jump with a parachute?

More to the point: Are two sixty-somethings in good enough shape to keep up with two brothers under five at the great zoo in our nation’s capital? Without getting lost on the Metro?

As a college student, I lived in a large city one year and learned the basic patterns and tricks to navigating a city’s metro or subway system—such as standing on the correct side of a boarding platform to get the correct train, and walking to the far end of the train or platform depending on which side of the block you hope to come up on at your destination. This day our main goal was just to travel safely and not lose any boys.

Had we landed in the right train? The Metro map was too far away for me to read, and I hesitated to head there for fear the boys would want to follow me. A fellow traveler seemed approachable (not rush hour) so I asked him if our train stopped at Metro Center where we could get the Red line to the zoo. It turned out the young man has sons the ages of our grandsons and he assured us this train indeed did stop at Metro Center, and how many stops to count off.

They were happier than they looked here. At the end of our adventure, we finally got to the zebra!

Washington’s Smithsonian National Zoo (free admission!) is a large and lovely park with plenty of almost natural habitat for the exotic animals to roam or swim or fly with relative freedom. The long paths winding through it on a sunny, hot day make little boys and older people a little tired and sometimes whiney, let’s just say. But at least the boys didn’t have long lists of animals on their “must see” lists: just swimming seals, zebras, and elephants.

We would have done well to study maps and guides to the park ahead of time: It had been 25 years or more since we’d visited when our own girls were a good age for it. We asked a volunteer for help and he ended up leading us to several destinations. Youngsters tend to get off track when they want to explore every little knob that twists, or exhibit door that lifts—and forget the big animals they really came to see.

Managing bathroom breaks, requests for drinks, and finally lunch (with one gluten-free child) were additional challenges (we brought our own but there were snack shops in the park). We found a shady area where two Spanish-speaking mothers were chatting and enjoying their littles (a nine-month-old, a two-month-old, and perhaps another child, not sure). I’m sure they got more out of their time spent together—a chance to get out on that sunny morning—than their children got out of the zoo! Which is maybe the point of some visits.

Yes we were hot, sweaty and tired, but we made it! The ride home in the Metro.

Our journey back to the Metro station included asking several folks whether we were heading in the right direction. When we were at last on the right platform, I found it very fitting and even inspiring to be serenaded by a pair of Metro musicians harmonizing nicely. Their lyrics spoke to me from the Bill Withers song “Lean on Me:”

So just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on….

We arrived happily back at my daughter’s house, safe and sound in time for late naps. When my daughter asked what their favorite animal at the zoo was, the two-year-old responded, “The cow.” Okay….! We could have taken a drive through the country for that.

My only regret? That I neglected to toss some spare bills in the open instrument case of the musicians. We had so many hands we leaned on during our adventure!

If you are like me, we all have people we lean on for our daily lives as well. How long has it been since you tossed a thank you their way?


Send your own adventure stories to me at or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. With two little boys in tow, you can be forgiven for not tossing a bill or two into the musicians’ instrument case. Congrats for braving this adventure!

    Our family has enjoyed skiing and white-water rafting over the years. Cliff and I have discussed zip-lining although we hesitate because neither wants to push the other in a wheelchair till the end of our days – ha!

    • We enjoyed several white water trips as a family, it will be interesting to see if we can enjoy any of those hair raising trips with our grandsons! Thanks for excusing my not tossing some bills. The music was truly uplifting and comforting after a somewhat stressful day at points!

  2. Jean Stauffer permalink

    That does sound like an adventure! Sometimes it feels like everything we do anymore is with several grandchildren in tow. I’m hoping they are keeping us young!

    Probably the gutsiest thing I ever did was take a 19-month-old granddaughter with me to Sweden! By myself! Thankfully she was a sound sleeper and also very charming. Both were advantageous!

    • Wow, I would say flying with a 19 month old to Sweden on your own was amazing! I’m sure people enjoyed you sharing her charms. I hope it was a pleasure trip! Thanks for adding your story. (Sorry I didn’t answer til now, I was away over a long weekend.)

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