Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: A Suprising Disappointment #SOL19 #TWTBlog
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Slice of Life: A Suprising Disappointment #SOL19 #TWTBlog

Oh, I want to show you the polar bears.  It is the best exhibit.

I lead my friend into the Central Park Zoo.  I spent so many hours at this exhibit when I lived in the city.  My husband (then boyfriend) and I didn’t have a lot of money.  New York City was really expensive, so we spent a lot of time in Central Park.  The polar bear exhibit was a favorite spot. We would read, play cards, or simply soak in a beautiful day.  I could watch them swim around for hours. 

After a few laps around the park I am disoriented.  I was sure of where the polar bear exhibit was, but it wasn’t there.  I thought my feet would remember the path.  I see a sign up ahead.

I don’t know why I can’t find it.  Let’s look on the map.

We scour the map. No polar bears on the map. That can’t be right.  What happened to the polar bears?  This is one of those moments when I am so grateful I have a smartphone.

Hey Siri, “Polar bears and Central Park.”


Polar Bear

Zoo collection includes: Gus born in late 1985 at a facility in Buffalo, New York, was at the Central Park Zoo since it opened in August of 1988. He was euthanized (2013) at age 27 due to an inoperable thyroid tumor. Ida, the female bear, was euthanized (2011) at age 25 due to liver cancer. They are both greatly missed.

My heart sank.  I don’t know why, but it hit me harder than I expected.  Maybe it represents the passage of time.  Maybe it reminds me of my own mortality.  Maybe I was looking forward to being transported back to a time when.  My friend’s voice orients me.

Do you want to see the grizzly bears?  There are now grizzly bears in the exhibit.

No.  No, I don’t.

We continue on our way and I leave a tiny piece of my heart with Gus and Ida.


Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers, and teachers here.

  • Avatar
    Posted at 09:55h, 19 March Reply

    Years go by and places change. I’m glad we can so easily find out what has happened. We are not left in the dark anymore.

  • Avatar
    Melanie Meehan
    Posted at 09:57h, 19 March Reply

    I completely get it, Clare. I didn’t live in the city but loved to go to the Central Park Zoo and watch the polar bears swim in circles. Even your rendition of the message makes me sad. Grizzlies wouldn’t/couldn’t take their place.

    I feel like there’s a picture book wanting to be written about this if there’s not one already.

  • Avatar
    Lanny Ball
    Posted at 10:00h, 19 March Reply

    As I read your post, I imagined the shock and sorrow you must’ve felt… as if I was right there with you. And your sentiments ring with such authenticity: “Maybe it represents the passage of time. Maybe it reminds me of my own mortality. Maybe I was looking forward to being transported back to a time when…” These thoughts remind us that time marching on can feel so jarring and sorrowful. Thanks for so eloquently reminding us that we can leave a bit of our heart with those who’ve passed.

  • Avatar
    Eva Kaplan
    Posted at 10:42h, 19 March Reply

    Every summer I took my daughter Olivia to see Gus. We loved him. It was our tradition. Do you remember the Polar Bear Gus lady who had pieces of his thick white hair in her deep pockets? She’d share tidbits of information about how under layers of this white hair is black skin. We learned about how Gus stopped playing in his enclosure one day and the doctors couldn’t find anything wrong until it was determined he was simply bored. The zoo began to give him live fish to hunt and hid frozen chicken inside a
    ball on top of a mountain for him to climb. Gus came back
    to life as he was depressed. Gus, Ida and there was one other female polar bear were part of my daughters childhood, who is now a high school physics teacher. I talk about Gus to my students every year, especially during argumentative essay writing when we explore if we
    should or shouldn’t have zoos. You brought back such
    memories. Thank you.

  • Avatar
    Diane Dougherty
    Posted at 10:52h, 19 March Reply

    I know you love and appreciate your friend, but really Grizzly bears are no substitute for the Polar Bears of your heart.

  • Avatar
    Lynne Dorfman
    Posted at 12:30h, 19 March Reply

    Clare, do you know the picture book Ida Always by Caron Lewis? It is the story of Gus and Ida and is very beautiful. I think Gus missed Ida so much after she was gone. Their love for each other is unforgettable. I have tears in my eyes because I would have felt exactly the same as you. Each loss makes another crack in our heart that serves to remind us of our own fragility – our own mortality. You say it all so beautifully. Now I want to reread the picture book.

  • Avatar
    Mandy Robek
    Posted at 15:01h, 19 March Reply

    Oh, Gus and Ida may they rest in peace. I have found memories of newlyweds with no money wandering around the park a block from our dingy apartment and the Buffalo Zoo. The bison welcomed the guest with an outdoor exhibit and I now wonder if they are still there too. I now live 5 minutes or less from the Columbus Zoo and we have polar bears – please come and we will linger as long as you want.

  • Avatar
    Michelle Hubbard
    Posted at 15:55h, 19 March Reply

    I’m so sorry! It’s so disorienting when a place you loved is gone and the sad fate of the polar bears is even more disappointing. Thank you for sharing ❤️

  • Avatar
    Rose Cappelli
    Posted at 18:03h, 19 March Reply

    Ida, Always by Caron Levis is about the real Gus and Ida. It’s a beautiful picture book that captures their devotion to each other as well as the importance of the city to them. Beautiful piece, Thank you!

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