When I was little, back before the internet, all the screens, and even really TV, there were books. And when there weren’t books, there was my Opa.

I spent hours reading. Not just daytime hours, but nightime hours. Sleeping hours. I was the Queen of the flashlight-under-my-covers. I cannot tell you the times I got caught & yelled at. I don’t remember. I do remember all the wonderful stories in my books.

I grew up in Holland, so my books were all in Dutch. My favorites were Pinkeltje, Saskia en Jeroen, and Lotje. To do this day I just think their names, and their worlds spring up alive & well in my mind. More stories than could ever be found in the books. Because. I had my Opa.

My Opa “knew” Pinkeltje (who’s as tall as a pinkie), Saskia and Jeroen, and Lotje’s Opa. He was friends with them, and he always had extra stories to tell about them that never made it into the books. I fervently believed this until I was almost 12. Sometimes I still think that maybe he did know Jaap ter Haar, the author (and father) of Saskia en Jeroen, as wel as Lotje.

When I was maybe 7 or 8, my parents took me to Artis. The Zoo. The zoo in Amsterdam, in the middle of the city. I spent half my time admiring the animals I’d only read about, the other half looking around for Lotje. I was old enough to know it was a story, but young enough to hope she was real.

I was sure if I found her, we’d be friends. Then, I too, could help feed the animals and live with a chimpanzee. I wanted nothing more. Not much has changed these days, except now I’d rather live with a giraffe.

Last week or maybe it’s already the week before, when I went to Amsterdam to pick up Christian, I had two days in Amsterdam. While Amsterdam is not big on social distancing, the tourist hot spots are following coronavirus protocols. That includes the zoo, Artis.

I found that there was a nightwalk through Artis, if you made reservations. I asked Steve if he wanted to go, not only did he want to go but so did everyone else! My people. They all love the zoo too.

Quick recap… Steve is Dave’s best friend. He moved to Amsterdam last year to be near his kids. His ex-wife now has a Dutch boyfriend, and a job in Amsterdam as well. I now know one Dutch guy, and 5 Americans living in Amsterdam. If it wasn’t for the pandemic, this would be hog Heaven! I love Amsterdam!

We each made reservations to visit Artis. Almost at the same time, and yet each reservation was about 15 minutes apart. We figured it was busy there, and lots of people made reservations to go at night. But. Nope.

Once we got there, the zoo was empty. There were no waiting lines. No people. Just us. We had the zoo, the animals, the entire place, to ourselves. If it wasn’t for my grumbling tummy, and the promise of real Dutch food, I would have stayed all night.