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And his 2nd Birthday

December 5, TwothousandandKnut2

I arrived in Bearlin early Thursday morning--the day before Knuti-day. I went straight to the zoo after checking into my hotel. There I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my zoo pass was still valid! I quickly scooted over to Knuti’s enclosure--”Hallo, buddy!”--finding many, many familiar, friendly faces and warm greetings--but Knuti? He was in cognito--hiding. I had brought a yellow rose and spent some moments alone and the tears flowed…I looked over at Knuti and over to the bear yard and remembered my first glimpse of TD last year--I saw a wheelbarrow and a glimpse of a beard--could it be I wondered then? Would I really see him? I looked for him now….and the tears continued.
Knuti wandered over to his cubbyhole so I figured out the bear was wanting some alone time; so Sanna and I went to say hi to Lars and watch his feeding.

I said, “Hi, Lars” just like I did last year. He had the same look: “Where are the babes?” I said to him, “Well, at least you have the duck for companionship.” Marcus came to feed Lars. Lars was a little off that day--only few “direct hits” if you will. Marcus talked with the Wilde Herde for quite awhile. I gave him my giant squeaky toy for Knuti and he remarked that he’d have to run it by the zoo director first. Well, o.k. then!

In the afternoon, I met with the reporter from the Berliner Zeitunger; she was a lovely young girl. She was simply amazed that Knuti had such a following and she seemed really interested in our love for the bear. When we finished the interview, we returned to Knuti’s enclosure and that’s when I saw Hildegard. We greeted each other warmly and the reporter turned to me and said, “She’s German, isn’t she?” So, she began to understand that people from all over the world were friends all because of a bear.

Then I introduced her to Marion K. the essential photo auntie and explained how Marion has taken pictures virtually daily of the bear. The reporter was amazed!
She even got to see him play ball--I don’t think she believed it when I told her, so it was great that she saw it for herself.

Knuti had his lunch and was good to go for some fun then. The bear played ball with us! Yes, on my very first day the action I was most hoping to see took place! It was simply adorable! Then Marion said to me, “Judy, you must catch the ball and throw it back to him. He will look you right in the eye and wait for you to throw the ball back. It is something to experience--he looks right at you--what a feeling it gives!” Well, the next toss was responded to by a parent placing his little boy in front of the glass wall to toss the ball back--that was so cute….

There was a huge gathering at the restaurant--we sat at a long table--it was wonderful! Natti showed us her beautiful book of Knuti pictures she had printed--(the next day she presented me with one! Oh, joy…it is simply beautiful; it sits on my coffee table in the living room so I can leaf through it often.)

Then we heard about the other book about Knuti; a fantasy of Knuti in the Antarctic with TD. Well, the next day I met the author and she and Hildegard gave me a copy of this lovely book. I cannot wait to translate it.

Well, I had a brief excursion to the KaDaWe and Europa Center, stopped by the Christmas market for a wurst and headed back to the hotel to crash--I mean sleep…
The next day was the day! When I arrived at the zoo on December 5th, there were lots and lots of people at Knuti’s enclosure--and lots and lots of cameras and people interviewing everyone! Just a normal, quiet day at the zoo. Nothing important going on here….(What were they thinking??) We all were interviewed by so many reporters. Mervi and I put up the Birthday banner I had brought--(I was amazed that it was left up even the next day!)

There was the ladder man and many others on ladders, too. I had a strong urge to knock him over on that ladder…I really did….I kept saying to Mervi, “Can I push him over?” We were sorely tempted, I tell ya…Well, it was a glorious birthday! I heard the ohhs and ahhs as Marcus and Sylvia came out and brought Knuti’s treats--no way to see because of the crowd. But then some nice lady let me use her ladder and I got some pictures of Knuti and his gifts.

I gave out pencils to commemorate the day--they say “Herr Knuti Doerflein
12-5-08. I even gave one to Heiner Kloss! He said, “Thank you.” Well, at least Herr Dr. Blah Blah didn’t show up to put a damper on the day. I think he knew better. The Wilde Herde was waiting for him! Oh, yes we were…..

Oh, it was glorious to meet and greet so many smiling Knutians--so many familiar and new faces! It was like meeting old friends--Lots of smiles and easy conversation. We were all so happy to be there with Knuti on his day and be together…

We met Mrs. Doerflein on Knuti's birthday. I was sitting on a bench near his enclosure taking a break with Bea when Hildegard comes over in tears. I was wondering why she was crying on Knuti's birthday. All she had to say was "Mama Doerflein" and I instantly knew why the tears. Many of us chatted with her and it seemed like she needed to talk and was o.k. with it. She spoke of looking for her Tommy and expecting to see him...as you would expect a mama to be when she has lost her son. I expressed my condolences to her and she remarked about my Knuti scarf. I kept looking in her eyes as I could see TD in them…

After Marcus and Sylvia brought out Knuti's birthday cake and surprises, Marcus was looking over the fence (just like Thomas used to do) smiling and watching the bear. Later in the day (after 4p), I saw Marcus standing at the enclosure watching the bear at the end of the day. These were dear gestures on his part--he was filling in for TD as those were just the things that Thomas would do...Oh, Thomas, indeed, has a strong presence in the zoo. Oh, how he is missed.

It was a wonderful birthday party; Knuti was delighted with all his guests, comfortable with all the cameras and, I think, loved his gifts. As Mervi said, at the end of the day, Knuti was digging and digging a hole next to the remains of the ice bomb--so funny! I do believe Mervi was right! Smart boy wanted to bury it so the crows wouldn’t get to it!

There was a cute story of Knuti and his jute bag. Apparently there were many squeaky balls in it; and as Knuti would press down over and over, each of the squeaky balls had a different tune! Oh, how cute is that? Wish I had seen and heard that!

Anyway, time for the party at Joe’s. Oh, Gundrun did such a marvelous job! She was a wonderful hostess as well. Knuti posters everywhere! Everyone was joyous ‘cause it was the King’s birthday! We had a very pleasant time. The highlights were Viktor coming around with his “live feed” and then there was the incident with Herr Ober falling into his Knutsteiner…Good time had by all. Oh, yes, I forgot…Ladder man shows up with a reporter! Can you believe his nerve? Well, Gundrun was polite with him, but the people at the big table told him, “No, no pictures.” And then proceeded to take pictures of him. He apparently didn’t like that! The guy was really pushing his luck. Mervi kept me, once again, from getting arrested….

Oh, what a glorious day! My mulchbett was calling me though….

The next day I met Mervi & Vesa and Teddybearmutti and her husband at the zoo station across from the zoo. I bought a beautiful bouquet of flowers there. The young girl in the flower shop really is an artist; she did a lovely job putting together white roses and some lavender flowers I’d picked out.

Then we headed to Spandau to visit Thomas’ grave. As we drove off, I said to Mervi: “I can’t believe where we’re going, Mervi.” And the tears began in the taxi…Well, we passed a giant IKEA and lots of apartment buildings….and also neighborhoods of really tiny houses…

We got lost initially, but eventually found our way to the cemetery. The flower shop at the main entrance, of course, knew how to direct us to Thomas’ grave.
It is a very beautiful and old cemetery. It is like walking in a tranquil forest. The grave is still covered in flowers, bears, cards and candles. I left a bouquet of flowers and a note. We cried and cried....I am so grateful to Mervi for including me in that journey. It was important to us to say goodbye. We met Barbara and Webbiene there. And also the cute red squirrel with the fuzzy ears. He watches over TD.....great sadness over the loss of this extraordinary man…

But, we are so grateful that Knuti is doing well. That is a blessing. And we heard that Mrs. Doerflein brought Knuti a piece of Thomas’ clothing so the bear has the scent of his beloved keeper again. This was very thoughtful of her. And I’m sure her coming to the zoo for his birthday (although she said it was easier for her this time) was for Thomas--she knew he’d want her to be there…

When we returned to the zoo, we spent time with the boy, of course--lots of time with him. He was a little tired from the festivities of the day before (what day was that?!) but was glad for the company. We all spent time at the zoo restaurant as well. We had wonderful visits there with so many lovely Knutians.

I stayed at Knuti’s enclosure until late in the day. As I was leaving, I kept looking back over and over…just one more look at the boy….and I was comforted with the thought that the boy will still be there at his enclosure and I will have many, many images and memories of this time with him and his devoted fans….

Oh, it was a whirlwind visit but so wonderful! When I arrived back on Sunday, I was greeted by Juan at the airport…And then there’s Al and lizzie at home….
it was good to be home, too….

xo k-j


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