When a child visits a zoo they are usually asked what animal is their favorite. Mine has always been the giraffe. No particular reason, I just liked them best.
In the Cleveland zoo when I was little, the giraffes stayed on the far side of their space, near the trees (food) and minded their own business. They shared the enclosure with ostriches who liked to come up to the wall and suddenly pop up at eye level to me. That was scary and too close for comfort.
I think it was in Virginia, 1973 – 1978, that our church had an annual event where handcrafted items from Africa were available one weekend in the fall to purchase as gifts. It was some kind of traveling mission sale that went from church to church. There were textiles, instruments, and hand-carved giraffes from Kenya. A mother and juvenile giraffe came as a set and I bought two sets.
Some years later, on a visit to Chris’s house in Santa Cruz, we stopped at a drug store, and while Chris was in the check-out line I spotted a tall giraffe in a display of gifts. This one was eighteen inches tall with real (goat) fur. I had to take him home with me.
After that, I began to encounter giraffes that needed a home more frequently. They were in boxes of tea bags, at estate sales, in thrift shops, as the handle on a coffee cup. I have one on the case on my iPhone, on blouses and jackets, and as earrings, necklaces.
About once a year I walk through the house and count the “herd” which now numbers forty, if I include pictures and screen savers. Curiously, I have not painted any giraffes, but years ago I made one out of wire.
Now my kids pick up unusual giraffes if they see them. It’s the easiest gift to get me. It seems my newest giraffe was homeless in Pittsburgh, and Jeremy brought him to California for a birthday gift.
He’s seven and a half inches tall.
Welcome to the herd.