“Hey kids, do you want to hear the story about the time someone tried to give Papa an elephant?”
My dad looked into the fire. “It’s really not much of a story.”
I pressed. “None of us have ever been offered an elephant, and I can’t remember the details of the story,” I said. “Please tell it.”
Dad told us to hang on a sec, he was going to see if he could find the picture. He returned with an old sepia tinted photograph and handed it to us to look at while he told his story.
“Well, when I was a little boy, when we lived in India -”
“Wait, you lived in India? I thought you lived in Ceylon.”
“We lived in Ceylon when I was older, maybe 11 or 12. But when I was really small, we lived in India.”
“So your dad was a diplomat in India and in Ceylon?” I asked. Two countries with elephants!
“Yes. I don’t remember his exact title when we were in India, but he was with the State Department, and he was a diplomat when we were there.”
I put my arms around the kids and settled in for the story.
“Grandpa was really close with the Maharajah when we lived in India.”
“What’s a Maharajah?” I asked. “Isn’t that a prince or something?”
“Well, I’m not really sure what a Maharajah is, but that Maharajah, the one in the picture there, was the ruler of the county or the region we were living in. And he and my father got along real well. I turned three while we were there, and for my birthday, the Maharajah asked my father’s permission to give me a baby elephant as a birthday gift.”
I looked at the kids and grinned. “How would you like a baby elephant for a birthday gift?” Considering they’ve never seen an elephant outside of a zoo (nor have I, for that matter), the idea seemed quite exotic to them. They both decided they wouldn’t like it.
My dad chuckled. “It wasn’t a very pragmatic gift.”
“Especially since a baby elephant will grow into an adult elephant,” said my husband.
“And you couldn’t have brought it back to the States when your dad’s assignment ended,” said my mom.
“So how did Grandpa extricate himself from the offer?” I asked.
“Well, it was a gesture of honor from the Maharajah, but Grandpa must have declined it somehow.” Dad smiled. “Diplomatically, of course.”
Dad became thoughtful and looked into the fire again. “I think you must have been thinking about the time I got chased by an elephant in Ceylon.”
… to be continued…