Last Modified: Monday, May 07, 2012 10:16 AM
I have a photograph that I’ve never framed. It stands clasped in the upturned arms of a large green binder clip that rests on a bookshelf in my house.
In it, my daughter, 5 or 6 years old at the time, runs, her back to me, down a small hill. It’s a cool day, and her yellow coat — the cuffs on the too-long sleeves rolled up — bulges like a sail in the wind as she races ahead of a friend.
The photo shows a fleeting moment from a kindergarten field trip to Zoo of Acadiana about a dozen years ago. It has been on unprotected display ever since. The paper flexes with changes in humidity, but the image — a bit blurry, the girls slightly out of focus — hasn’t faded.
That hillock, which sat in a corner of the park, was one of the most popular attractions during that visit. Children raced up, down and around it until they were corralled by chaperones and herded off to see the next animal on their route.
We have many pictures of that trip, but I haven’t seen them in years. The rush to the bottom of that hill is the only thing I remember — well, that, and getting a bunch of kids in trouble for trying to balance on the posts and bars that ringed the parking lot.
I went on just about every field trip my daughter, Zoe, ever took — the Houston Museum of Natural Science, where we saw mummies; Shreveport’s Sci-Port center, where she got to touch a preserved human brain; and New Orleans, where we visited the Aquarium of the Americas (where, I swear, I saw Newman from “Seinfeld”), rode a riverboat, visited a battlefield and climbed a tower.
They were all fun, and memorable. But, still, when I think of field trips, I think of that girl — now months away from starting college — running to the bottom of a small hill, with me behind and nothing in front of her.
That tiny hill is more barren and compact now, but it’s still as popular as ever, I learned when I went to the zoo with my son’s first-grade class recently. Kids aimlessly trod the mound like ants on an anthill — and had the best time doing it.
My son had seen the picture of his sister on the hill many times, and I probably pointed it out to him again after I signed on for the trip several weeks ago. But things like that don’t mean much to children, and he dutifully forgot. This was his trip, not hers.
After we had watched the animal show and had looked at the lion, the bear, various monkeys, the snakes and the turtles — two of them locked in an energetic embrace he, thankfully, didn’t see — and rounded the kookaburra cage, we came upon the hill.
He saw a couple of his friends climbing to the top of the mound and took off running. I had planned to wait for him at the bottom, but he paused midway up the slope to call out: “Dad, take a picture of me running down the hill like Zoe.”
I took two, neither of them blurry.