Saturday, June 4, 2011

Changes

Everything changes. Including the “truth,” it appears.
I’m in the Detroit suburbs this weekend, looking for some answers to a growing number of questions about our family history. As I get further into this blog, I’m finding that mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles told daughters and cousins different stories about life events in our family. Many of those stories, purported to be the truth, conflict with each other – and with the official records.
I am waiting for military records, a coroner’s report, and police reports, so I’ll wait to bring you up to date until I can piece it all together more coherently. But as I baffle my way through oral histories and gravestone inscriptions and city archives this week, I took a trip to the Detroit Zoo. It was only my second visit there since dad killed himself in 1967.

These Detroit Zoo chimps from the 1950s
don't look too happy with dad's
instructions.

The old chimpanzee performance area and ape house are gone. Good riddance. Instead, the chimps and the gorillas have massive, airy indoor living areas, and wide open outdoor areas. After carrying around mental images of the caged and clothed animals who were forced into buffoonery in the 1950s and ‘60s, I was so struck by the free and proud stances of the Detroit Zoo chimps today.
The zoo doesn’t shy away from its history. Signage at the chimp area explains to visitors how the chimps of yesteryears “were dressed in human clothes and presented to the public as clowns.” They go on to explain how their views changed.
It is clear to see how far the zoo has progressed. No captive situation can replicate the wild but, for this chimp trainer’s daughter, it was a joy to see Detroit’s chimps acting like chimps. 
Change can be good. In fact, sometimes change can soothe your soul.

This Detroit Zoo chimp enjoyed a serene moment
in the sun yesterday.


2 comments:

  1. This post is so heartening. I've never been to the Detroit Zoo and am impressed not only by the apes' wide open areas but by the zoo's choice to publicize its history and its changed perspective. That's impressive. I hope this trip will bring you both some serenity in terms of your "internal ape images" and some answers about family events.

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  2. Dawn,
    Glad you took the opportunity to visit the Detroit Zoo to help erase some of the bad memories. I've been back twice as an adult. Certain sights (e.g., bear grottos) and sensations (breeze hitting my face as the zoo train goes through a tunnel) reminded me of visits years ago. But it has definitely turned into a modern zoo where practices of the past are ... in the past.

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