Today is Jane Goodall's 75th birthday!
In 2004, Mikaela spread the news of Goodall's 70th with a front page cover story in her paper:
At that time, Mikaela was in fact torn between wanting to be President of the United States & wanting to be the next Jane Goodall. Initially, it seemed she would go with being the most powerful person in the world. During playgroups, she split her time between her playmates on the swing sets and their moms at the picnic tables where she canvassed for votes (merely requesting signatures on a contractual agreement to vote for her in 2032). And, since we homeschool on the slightest provocation, we also read biographies of all of the past presidents and memorized as much White House trivia as we could. (But we were limited by the fact that my kids' couldn't tolerate being virtually toured around and talked down to by "Barney," George W's schnauzer, for more than 5 minutes. Doggone it, we're really gonna miss him!) The lure of the White House was undeniable and she had extensive redecorating plans, such as turning the oval office into a playroom. . .
But, ultimately, she instead elected to devote herself to full time motherhood, "adopting" Golden and Glitter, twin chimpanzees, from Jane Goodall. Naturally, I used her wanna-be naturalist aspirations as a chance to have us learn everything we could about Africa and encouraged Mikaela in her Tanzania itinerary travel planning. We compared and drew chimpanzee and human anatomy, read Jane's biography In the Shadow of Man plus her other observation journals and all of her children's books, along with Dian Fossey's Gorillas in the Mist. We knew that, as a young girl, Jane had a beloved stuffed animal monkey, so Mikaela acquired 7 stuffed animal monkeys since obviously that was the key to becoming a professional naturalist. Finally, Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees IMAX easily trumped Jungle Book as her new favorite movie, opposable thumbs up!
Late one night, however, Chris was overcome with worry, unable to sleep, fretting that his little five year old girl would immediately need to start rounds of immunizations, apply for a passport and take machete bushwhacking lessons all before her sixth birthday. Of course, I laughed off his concerns and he went back to bed, ridiculed but relieved. I then stayed up wide awake til sunrise wondering if all this monkeying around might truly have dire consequences for our daughter - all the while dabbing at my Leakey eyes. But, by dawn, I'd regained my composure and perspective, whereas Chris, after his full night's rest, was refreshed enough to deliver a lengthy and heartfelt speech exploring each and every danger posed by living among wild animals - all the way on the other side of the world, did she realize? - in frightening and excruciating detail. Luckily, Mikaela was not so easily deterred and, most probably as a direct result of Dad's little intervention, she declared her choice very soon afterwards. That's right, she fully abandoned her presidential campaign and decided with complete certainty that she would absolutely, positively follow in Jane Goodall's footsteps. (Thereby making Chris a monkey's uncle?)
Mikaela then took up the cause of wildlife around the world with admirable fervor, collecting 1,690 "Pennies for the Planet" and even - after trick or treating exclusively for pennies one Halloween - convincing one of those pre-K teachers (who'd negatively said Mikaela was too participatory and eager a year earlier) to add Pennies for Pandas to her class' kindergarten curriculum the following fall. [In fact, she ended up being Mikaela's biggest sole contributor, making my little sisterly lions wait inside her front door for a good fifteen minutes while she searched through every purse, change jar and even her son's backpack for pennies to donate.] From then on, all relatives' birthday present inquiries were answered with requests for cold, hard cash - Mikaela's "fun"ds to be put toward chimp adoption fees, land purchases around Gombe National Park or bamboo reserves for pandas in China. And, after our hundredth viewing of Goodall's IMAX dvd (a most cherished Christmas present), Chris finally came around to accepting his daughter as the next Jane Goodall. Just in the nick of time - right before she changed her mind and decided to become a pastry chef.
Now it's Katrianna who wants to be the naturalist. . . Or, after being wowed by Planet Earth, a roving wildlife photographer. And that, too, might evolve into something else before Chris has to learn to fly helicopters so Katrianna can hover above a lion and film its thrilling pursuit of a wildebeest. . .
But, in whatever goals our kids set for themselves, we hope they can do as much Good-all around as Dr. Jane.
Send Jane Goodall your Happy Birthday wishes!