My son Nathan loves riding the Zoo Train. We live very close to the Milwaukee County Zoo, so when Nathan plays outside and hears the Zoo Train whistle, he lights up and yells “ZOOO TRAIN!!”
Any visit to the Zoo must always begin with a pilgrimage to the Zoo Train. It's just the way it's done. Zoo Train first and then the rest of the zoo afterwards, dad. That's just how civilized 2 and a half year olds do it.
The Zoo train is a scale locomotive, which runs completely around the Milwaukee County Zoo. There are two engines, a steam and a diesel, and the steam engine is highly preferred among discriminating Zoo train aficionados, like Nathan.
Upon entering the park, we head directly for the Zoo train, buy our tickets (Nathan still rides free) and wait for the next one to pull into the station. Excitement builds as the train unloads, then the conductor waves our line forward to board.
Nathan is somewhere between utter buzzing excitement and reverence for the Zoo Train. His eyes widen as he soaks in every microsecond of the experience. Once we've settled on a passenger car, we await the parting whistle.
The engine chugs, the cars jolt forward and the ride begins. In a matter of moments we're rolling at full speed, trees and grass flashing past our open train carriage, Nathan smiling a deep, satisfied smile. He's exactly where he wants to be at that very moment in time.
We wave at the people as we pass railroad crossings, laugh as we see other kids in cars ahead and behind as the train bends around the curve. Nathan lets out a giggle whenever the engine toots its whistle. This is 7 minutes of sheer perfection.
When the ride is complete, Nathan is completely content and satisfied. He never fights to stay onboard and never demands a second ride once we're done. Somehow he's found happiness in a single, perfect ride on the Zoo Train.
What a great lesson for me. How can I learn to be content and satisfied when joyful times come? Learning to accept, absorb and revel in those moments, without any thoughts of reviving the moment later or in vain attempts to recreate the moment by grasping for more.
Like my son, I must learn to live in the moments and embrace them for what they are. I desire to become fully satisfied — just like Nathan on the Zoo Train.