“What a horrible looking snack,” I thought as they handed me the cone. I was raised to be polite, so I didn’t say anything. I looked at the other 6 year olds in line. Were they horrified? They didn’t seem to be. I held the cone filled with… with what? What was this? Were they nuts? Maybe. Or dogfood? They wouldn’t feed us dog food? Would they? Not on a school field trip. No one else was eating it, thank goodness, as we walked single file into the Deer Park. The Deer Park. Before Funland. Before Valley Fair. Before Six Flags. This is what we had. No rides. No lights. No games. But still, we were excited. Excited because it meant leaving the classroom. Getting on a bus. Singing. Tickling. Pushing. Anticipating. We got out into the gravel parking lot. Went beyond the fence. Got our cone filled “snack” and proceeded to the deer. What a relief it was to see the first boy in line hold his cone out to feed the ever-so-tame baby deer. It was for the deer! “Ohhhhhhh!” I exclaimed, my audible realization. All the other kids turned to look at me, and so I covered with — “Oh, look, at the pretty deer!” We all smiled and wriggled in our single-file.
“Did you touch their noses? They were wet!” “I did! I touched a nose!” “Well, I was licked!” “You were licked?!” “Well,” not to be outdone, one boy professed, “I was bit!” “Bit????” we screamed in unison. Mrs. Bergstrom smoothed her stern face down to her stern skirt. “Maybe just a nibble.” he said. She continued to stare him down. “No,” he said, “I guess just licked.” She winked. Mrs. Bergstrom winked. We sang out the open windows, wishing the day would never end.
Back at Washington Elementary, our legs bounced beneath our desks. She told us to put our heads down. “Relax,’ she said. Relax? How could we relax? What we had experienced! It was so joyfully overwhelming. Heads down, we danced in the memory.
We had no cameras. We had each other. We saw and felt everything. I have no proof but for the space that remains filled in my heart. A tiny space where deer may nibble at the truth, and children may wriggle in the dream. I raise my head and see out the morning window. “OOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHH, Look!!!!”