While today was more like spring than winter outside, inside the chimp house is looking pretty Christmasy. Volunteer Denice decorated the Christmas tree with lights, the boot ornaments that Karen Young gave us last year, holiday photo ornaments of each chimpanzee, monogrammed stockings from Jayne R. (one for each chimpanzee), and some toys. The troll doll elf tree-topper is not pictured, because it didn’t last long – as soon as Foxie spotted it, she wanted to hold it.
Jamie was quite interested in the decorating process, and we’ve been removing and showing the ornaments to all of the chimps over the last few days. They gaze for a long time at the photo ornaments, and Jamie loves the little cowboy boots, of course.
Holiday songs and sayings have been making frequent appearances in my thoughts all week long (you too?), and today I was thinking about ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and sugar plums dancing through sleeping heads.
It reminded me that I have been wanting to explain one of my favorite times of day at the chimp house when I’m Lead Caregiver. It’s when the day is over.
All of the chimpanzees have contentedly-full bellies from their dinner and night bags, they’ve gathered up all of their blankets and made their cozy nests for the night, the caregivers have said goodnight, and, if we’re lucky, we’ve gotten a nest grunt in return. The rest of the staff and volunteers have left for the evening, and I’m alone in the quiet.
I feel satisfied after doing a day of physical work – cleaning and, quite literally, running around. I can glance around the kitchen and see what’s been accomplished during the day.
I think about the last several hours with the chimpanzees and reflect on the many endearing, amazing, surprising moments that have occurred. I think about the chimps on the other side of the kitchen door sleeping soundly, and I feel so gratified that we were able to provide them with yet another day of sanctuary where their needs are the main focus.
Even with a job you love, it’s easy to get lost in the minutiae of everyday tasks or looming deadlines. And, to be frank, it can be stressful to rely on donations – to be thinking about money and fundraising all the time (perhaps now would be a good time to mention the Holiday Pal Fundraising Contest). But being able to experience the profound peace at the end of the day in the chimp house and know that this exists because of the work and support of thousands of caring people is a giant gift – for the chimps and for my own motivation to continue to provide the best care we possibly can for them.
So, here’s to sugar plums or whatever other treats or happy thoughts we want dancing through heads tonight and every night.