The Joy of Teaching

To me, there is nothing more rewarding than spending a day with the grandkids and sharing the wisdom of my years. Today, for instance we were exploring creative new ways of expressing the alphabet.

“Aaaaaa,” 6-year-old Leila offered.

“Good one,” I said.

“Bbbbbb,” Charlie 4-year-old added.

“Another great effort.”

“Your turn,” they said.

I swallowed as much air as I could, then let loose with a loud musical belch: “Cccccccccccccccccccccc.”

“Wow!” they said.

I beamed with grandfatherly pride. “I used to be able to do the entire alphabet in one burp.”

“Wow,” they said again.

Leila swallowed several times, her eyes sparkling with concentration. “Deeee-eeee-fffff,” she burped.

Charlie and I applauded enthusiastically.

“What’s going on?” my wife asked.

“Book!” I whispered loudly.

Leila handed me a book and she and Charlie snuggled up, jut as my wife rounded the corner.

“…And that is why we don’t have a Roman Empire today… oh hi, Dear. We’re just reading and stuff.”

She looked at the book. “You got the Fall of the Roman Empire out of ‘Chimps don’t Wear Glasses?’”

“Ahhhh, yeah, well…”

“Can we go to the zoo?” Charlie asked.

“Great idea,” I said.

Leila looked at me. “I’ll bet I can burp the word zoo,” she said.

I patted her head. I love to see them grow.

Although, it’s quaint compared to say the San Diego Zoo or a party at Michael Jackson’s house, the Santa Barbara Zoo is still a lot of fun – especially the little train.

“Check this out,” I said, as we pulled away from the station. “I’m not going to hold on the entire ride.” I threw my hands over my head as if I were in the front car on Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Unfortunately, the train has a low ceiling.

“Please no banging on the train,” the teenage conductor said, then added: “Oh, it’s you.” She then reminded “everybody” that there was no standing, no hollering, no loud animal imitations, no leaning our heads out to see how close we could come to being decapitated by the sign at Gibbon Island. “And please don’t ruin the punch lines on all my jokes this time.”

Dang. I love the one about the lions spending all day “lion about.”

After the train ride, we headed for barnyard.

“What’s this?” Leila asked as I handed her a small cup.

“Food,” I said. “I’ll get some pictures of you feeding the sheep.”

“Do they bite?”

“Naw. These are domestic sheep. Over the years they have been bred to eat just using their tongues.”

A few feet away another kid held out a pellet. “Ow,” she said as a sheep took the pellet and ripped the little paper cup out of her hand.

Leila grabbed my camera. “You feed it. I’ll take the photo.”

The sheep smiled a toothy smile at me. “Ah, who wants a picture of a sheep anyway,” I said. “Let’s go see the lions.”

We were in luck. One of the lions was ‘lion’ – I told you I love that – on a rock right near the viewing window. A group of people were just leaving, mumbling something about lions sleeping 20 hours per day and using the other four hours mainly for eating and mating. I mentally added zoo lion to one of the things I’d like to come back as in a future life.

I readied my camera. “Do something,” I said to Charlie and Leila.


“I don’t know, try to look delicious or something.”

They got close to the glass partition and sure enough, the lion picked its head up and ran its large tongue over its lips. “Perfect. Now, smile.”

After the lions, we visited the giraffe with the kink in its neck. “I think he forgot to duck when he went into his cave,” I said.

“Don’t tell them that,” my wife said, then she explained that the giraffe was born that way. “Some creatures just have defects,” she added looking at me.

I stopped hanging my head over to one side and pulled in my tongue.

“I’m hungry,” said Charlie.

“Me, too,” said Leila.

We started trekking toward the parking lot. “We need marching music,” I said to Leila. “I should play my underarm trumpet.”

“What’s an underarm trumpet?” she asked.

Ah yes, tomorrow’s lesson…