Back when we went places and did things, I hugged a panda. A Giant Panda. Well, it was the baby version. In the wintery city of Chengdu at the conservation and breeding center. As it was preoccupied with a carrot. But because it is a legit bear, after approximately 30 seconds, it remembers that it doesn’t like to be hugged and can bite down on an unassuming tourist.
But for those 30 seconds, I laughed and smiled as it munched, carrot flecks flying everywhere, like a little garbage disposal trying to rack up 12 hours of nonstop eating for the day. Its false thumb clutching that carrot like a lifeline, dexterity even at such a young age.
And I marveled at its fur, hollow spikes providing such good insulation for all seasons in the Shaanxi mountains. Its whiskers, even whiskers on the bottom of its feet so it avoids slipping in ice. The black circles around its peering eyes, and teddy bear ears making it like a stuffed animal imitating a real animal but here was the real animal. The sturdy paws and legs, comfortably splayed, reclined on its low butt, tailed tucked under. Blinking at the audience, content.
I thought of that time when this week in the snowstorm, the Giant pandas Mei (chee-ang) Xian and Tian Tian at the National Zoo in Washington DC were filmed rolling and somersaulting and sledding down the hills in their containment area. Looking like kids who are having the worry-free thrill of an unexpected snow day. Maybe they miss going places and doing things too.