Thursday, June 27, 2013

Finding Home In A Buddhist Tiger Temple

Some dreams speak louder than others with an inflection that lets you know this is the real deal.
When my daughter was very young she wore a cheetah costume everywhere she went.  It was her cousin's dance costume and my daughter wore it when it was way too big all the way until the ankle elastics  tried desperately to hold on to her kneecaps.  Her room was done in cheetahs and she slept with a stuffed tiger at night.  We chased down tiger exhibits in every city we lived and she would cling to the protective fence telling me how one day she would be inside playing with the tigers.
Her declaration of mingling with big cats didn't spark and fade like most little girl imaginings but grew brighter, more determined every year.  There were dreams of zoo helping, rescue missions, and research on African charities that aid tigers.  Recent summers were consumed calculating expenses to see how much she would have to save to afford a wildlife adventure. But, like most teen girls, savings were sacrificed at the first sight of an amazing handbag.  Then along came her graduation trip to Thailand and she discovered that in this magical place tigers roamed free.  
Within a day she had tracked down a Buddhist Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi Province.
 She researched to be sure this was not a tourist trap of drugged cats, that the facility was not on a world watch group, and that she could be assured interaction with the tigers.  With only one day free to spend outside of Bangkok, she chose the jungle over the pristine Thai beaches. 
Over the past 18 years I have listened to my child's words with love and enthusiasm, have cherished her quirky habits and have always encouraged her to follow her dreams.  I have learned the nuances that separate interest from true drive in her voice.  Watching her realize this life long dream I couldn't help but see my baby at five romping around in that cheetah costume, playfully growling and raising a paw with a big smile on her face.  And now, as we played with the tiger cubs together, I knew she was home.
Some friends asked if I was scared allowing her to be so close to such a dangerous animal.  I wasn't. I realized as she was being photographed lounging atop a full grown tiger, it was two years ago to the day that she was in Fort Worth, Texas, at Cook Children's Hospital prepping for open heart surgery.  That was the beast that scared me the most and she tamed it.  She is fearless when it matters, gentle when it is necessary.  I knew the tigers would recognize this in her like akin souls finding each other at long last.

1 comment:

  1. WOW! How cool is that? Goosebumps.
    Hugs, Robin