I asked for lettuce for my birthday. It was the best gift ever.
Yes, you read that correctly. Lettuce. But there’s a reason for the vegetable talk, I promise.
I don’t know about you, but with all of the stress and uncertainty dominating the internet for what seems like the 89th week in a row, I haven’t felt like creating much new content.
But, I know that writing is a habit and we need to keep those “writing muscles” active to keep our brains and fingers nimble.
So, I wanted to tell you a story (with a happy ending, of course!).
There’s no invitation to a call, free offer, or info on a new paid product contained in this post. Not really any writing tips either.
I’m just here to hang out and share something that brings me great joy. Because I feel like we could all use some more of that right now.
Hope that’s okay.
I asked for lettuce for my birthday.
Yes, actual lettuce. Like the salad kind.
And in all honesty, I didn’t really ask. I sort of demanded lettuce.
Last summer, my brother shared a photo of him and his fiancée feeding giraffes at a nearby zoo. I promptly announced to my mother that I wanted lettuce snacks for my birthday and that she was going to take me to see the giraffes the next time I visited.
If you know me at all, you know what a special place in my heart these gentle giants possess, and feeding lettuce to a giraffe has long been on my bucket list.
I’d never met a giraffe in real life, enjoying them only through internet videos and one brief and distant encounter at an urban zoo. That excursion did not disappoint–we were able to witness one spirited and ornery giraffe kick a particularly persistent emu directly in the face after the third or fourth time it pestered him by nipping at his feet while he was trying to graze.
But, they wanted nothing to do with the humans telepathically willing them to come near the viewing area for a closer look. So, I got just few grainy photos at maximum zoom on a cell phone camera.
This opportunity to actually feed a giraffe face to face…or, hand to mouth, rather, set my one-track mind to obsession mode. I started counting down to Giraffe Day like a child waiting for Christmas.
When the day finally arrived, the weather looked PERFECT, but we called ahead to make sure the giraffes were out and accepting visitors for feeding. The zoo staff assured us they would be there as long as the weather was above 55 degrees and clear, so off we went.
My mom humored me as I gleefully belted my favorite hits of the ’70s and ’80s down the highway until she’d had enough Cher for one morning and convinced me to turn off the music.
Without car karaoke as a distraction, I started paying more attention to the long stretch of road in front of us, and my mother, apparently less.
She missed the exit and, naturally, the next opportunity to turn around was a few miles up the highway now sending us in the wrong direction.
That’s okay, I thought to myself. I had GPS and we’d get back on track.
The rerouting took us through a small rural town with speed limits of 30mph. On Giraffe Day, this felt equivalent to riding a snail on the back of a turtle trudging through peanut butter.
We finally got back to the regularly scheduled route, but then the unthinkable happened.
She missed the next merge.
Hello, Wrong Highway #2
My excitement quickly turned to anxiety as I noticed the overcast skies. I started to think it might rain, forcing the giraffes to go inside for the day.
As I took a deep breath and quietly tried to hide my discontent, my train of thought was interrupted by my mother’s sudden announcement.
You guessed it.
“Crap! I was supposed to turn back there!”
My mom missed not one, not two, not even three exits, but ALL FIVE OF THEM! On what she’d assured me was an “easy” drive to the zoo.
By that point, we were both frustrated and entirely ready to be out of the car. Yet we couldn’t help but laugh. We stopped to get my mom an ice cream cone.
What’s one more detour, right?
It wasn’t raining, but I thought for sure the giraffes would be sleeping or worse–full–by the time we got there, now at least a full hour behind schedule.
As it turns out, the timing was exactly as the universe intended. When we finally arrived at the giraffe overlook, there were no active feeders on the landing. I got a private moment with the most gorgeous creature I have ever seen, who immediately walked up to the deck when she saw me approaching.
The giraffes were not full, nor sleeping, and my mom brought me over a handful of lettuce from the zookeeper’s stand. I was too enamored by my new friend to even notice the snack station. At the sight of lettuce, the other giraffes made a beeline to the landing, and I became the happiest vending machine on the planet.
My mom let me sit there for a good half hour or more as groups of parents, kids, and other adults passed through, just staring at the giraffes, petting their noses, giggling like a small child as they licked my hand in search of more lettuce. If she was bored out of her mind, she didn’t let it show. She even asked questions about their ossicones (the bony protrusions on a giraffe’s head) and let me explain how giraffes communicate using ultrasonic sound waves. That’s why they appear so quiet to humans.
It was one of the very best days of my life. All because my mom gave me lettuce for my birthday.
So, why tell you THIS particular story?
Well, I will never pass up the opportunity to talk about giraffes, obviously. But I also saw some larger takeaway points from this experience that could do us all some good in this chaotic time.
First, we may not always take the paths we intended to reach our goals (or zoos), but the journey is worth it. Embrace the wrong turns and learn from them. Many of us aren’t doing what we’d planned at this particular moment in time. But we can make the best of it.
And, sometimes the simplest gifts or gestures mean the most. The item doesn’t have to be a fancy or expensive thing-a-ma-bob to be memorable. It just has to have value for the person receiving it. I don’t know about you, but the little things in life certainly mean more than ever right now. Let’s keep appreciating them!
Lastly, embracing our childlike joy amid the chaos of the adult world can be rejuvenating. Not a single person rushed me. No one made a rude remark about the full-grown adult having WAY more fun than any of the children sticking their lettuce nibbles over the railing. Don’t be afraid to “play” (even in your business). Do the things that light you up. Life’s too short to be anyone but YOU.
So that’s my story.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?