We went on safari last week.
And now I have to pause for a minute because I still can’t believe that I am someone who can say “I went on safari last week.”
There among the wildebeests, the giraffes, and baboons, Caleb turned nine.
The baby is nine. His last year in single digits looms just as my last year of “forty-something” heads into its final stretch.
While we were traveling I posted something from the archives about Caleb turning six, which at the time, seemed ancient. Of course, my turning forty once seemed worthy of note, too. Looking back, six ain’t got nothin’ on nine—and forty ain’t got nuthin’ on what’s looming ahead.
On safari, we saw a full complement of amazingness:
Caleb loved it all, snapped pictures endlessly, thumbed intently through our guidebook of Eastern African Mammals, asked our guide Daniel about eighty gazillion questions.
Ask Caleb the best part of the safari, though and he will say without hesitation: ants.
On our last morning drive out into the Mara, as we jounced along a rutted trail near Oloololo Escarpment, Daniel, who must surely count an eagle or a hawk among his ancestors because his eyes are so sharp, pulled over suddenly and cut the engine on the jeep. By now we know that an engine going silent often signals that Something Interesting is afoot, but this time, the interest really was afoot.
Caleb and Daniel climbed out of the truck so Daniel could show him the big-headed worker ants carrying ant eggs, the soldier ants guarding them and then—the coolest thing ever, according to Caleb—the tunnel that the worker ants make to hide themselves from predators. The ants build a tunnel out of their own bodies, dried grass, and dirt:
Caleb loved the safari ants even more than the termite mounds, which pock the landscape in every size from tiny ankle-high piles of dirt to towers that surround trees and reach even further underground than above-ground, like bug-built icebergs.
termite queens lay an egg every three seconds
Ants play a starring role in the epic that Caleb has been writing in fits and starts over the past year, although this epic is currently on hold in favor of the “Star Wars” based novel he’s begun, called “Hyper Space Hero.” Here is the sound of Caleb at work:
Today Caleb announced that he planned to be a genetic engineer so he could create clones; last month he wanted to work for the CIA. He’s pretty sure that whatever his day job will be, he’s going to be an author.
Unlike his older brother, Caleb isn’t as sure of his many talents; he doesn’t notice that his report card is every bit as good as his brother’s. Caleb is sure that he’s not popular, and I worry that because of his imagination, his voracious reading habit, and his fascination with Star Wars arcana, other kids might think he’s childish, or, you know, weird, and that would be too bad, because then I’d have to kill them. I am hoping that this will be the year Caleb finds a soul mate.
I don’t know what my Caleb is going to be when he grows up but I confess to wishing that he’d grow up just a little more slowly…because at nine, the baby…