(Photo credit to my dad @kenhammond on Instagram)
It probably comes as no shock to you at this point that I am a major animal lover. Fuzzy, feathered, or scaly it doesn’t matter, I adore them all–to the point where for most of my childhood I wanted to be a vet or a dolphin trainer or a zookeeper–so the Nashville Zoo is something I’ve been wanting to do since we moved here in July but I haven’t had the chance until now. The past couple weeks my grandparents have been visiting from California which means we’ve been taking them on the usual Nashville tourist haunts: Civil War sites, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Parthenon and, my favorite, the Nashville Zoo. Of course, being from SoCal, I’ve grown up with some pretty amazing zoos such as the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Wild Animal Park, and LA Zoo, and while the Nashville Zoo was nowhere near as big as those and didn’t have nearly as many different animals–big cats are my favorites so I was a little disappointed that all the Nashville Zoo had were clouded leopards that I didn’t get to see because they weren’t out when I was there, and a couple cougars–it was still a really neat little zoo. My favorite animal that they had there (that I actually got to see anyway) were the red pandas. They were so fluffy and adorable and I’ve never wanted to sneak into an exhibit and steal an animal (or at least play with them till security dragged me away kicking and screaming) more in my life…I resisted the urge, obviously, pretty sure you’d have seen me on the news if I hadn’t. Still, they were beyond cute. My favorite experience, however, was definitely the kangaroo exhibit. Any exhibit where I get to touch a fuzzy animal is going to be an instant favorite for me so the kangaroo exhibit at the Nashville Zoo where you’re allowed to touch the roo’s (so long as they’re within reach of the path you have to stay on) won me over pretty quick. I mean I can now say I’ve pet a kangaroo–which was so much softer than I expected btw–how cool is that! Now if I can just find a zoo that’ll let me pet a red panda…
Christmas Eve began with me bundled up in front of an Italian bakery at 7:30 in the morning with my mom and aunt, as we stood in line in the twenty-degree Massachusetts air waiting for the bakery to open so we could get some cannolis for the huge family dinner we were having later that night. It was my first Christmas in Nashville and I was spending it in Boston. My Mom, Dad, and I flew up the day before Christmas Eve to stay with my aunt and uncle for the holidays. I’d never been to Massachusetts before and I don’t think I’ve ever been so cold in my entire life; over the ten days we were there, there were times the temperature dropped below zero and I found myself fantasizing about the California sun. I was very glad we spent most of that time curled up in front of the fire watching movies and the Punisher Netflix series.
Still, as dreadful as the cold was, there was something magical about waking up on Christmas morning to snow lazily drifting down onto the winter wonderland that is my aunt and uncle’s backyard. That’s something I’ve never had in California: a white Christmas. I’ve got some vague memories of a Christmas or two spent up in Big Bear with my other aunt and uncle and that uncle’s parents many years ago but while there may have been snow on the ground I don’t think it actually snowed on Christmas day. Of course, spending Christmas somewhere I’ve never been before meant missing a couple of Christmas traditions this year. Stockings and Christmas presents—at least those given between my parents and I—were opened on the Friday before Christmas instead of Christmas morning. There was no homemade coffee cake—a staple in my house for the morning of every major holiday—on Christmas (or New Years) morning but my aunt did make potato casserole—another holiday tradition for my family—for the huge Christmas Eve dinner the night before. Instead of a big ham dinner on Christmas day we had homemade spaghetti with family members from my uncle’s side of the family—whom I had either never met or met when I was too young to remember meeting—and had the big ham dinner—complete with potato casserole and my uncle’s famous Jell-O casserole–with a bunch of that same part of the family on Christmas Eve instead. I missed my cats but did get to curl up with Roger, my aunt and uncle’s pit bull, on the couch a couple of times.
As different as it was from my usual Christmas, I loved getting to have the traditional White Christmas you see in movies and on TV and getting to spend it with family I don’t get to see very often and even meeting some family I’d never met before.