Many of you remember the story about the pet turtle we acquired a few months ago. I entitled the article, The Family Shrink because we all found ourselves wandering out to the patio to alternately spend time with it. It was like taking a smoking break but minus the cigarette and lighter because nobody smokes.
In retrospect, despite having rescued the animal off a busy street and thereby saving it from an inevitable crushing death, I think we all felt a bit sorry for the little guy. In our “heart of hearts,” we knew he’d be destined for loneliness.
Nonetheless, our desire to keep the tiny creature in captivity prevailed. Everyone enthusiastically pitched in to feed him, play with him and perform the ritual aquarium cleaning. He was showered with attention. At first.
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And then like any other novelty in life, with each passing week, the excitement began to wane. The weekday morning rush oftentimes meant that our new pet was forgotten and wouldn’t be fed until someone remembered late afternoon. And after school the kids were occupied with chess club, history club, drama club, friends, homework, sports and household chores.
Life started to get in the way.
So the weekly tank-maintenance lapsed into ten days, then, into two weeks. Shortly thereafter, the already-fading turtle craze was overshadowed by something else. We became official dog-sitters for our traveling neighbors’ adorable and curious mutt.
In short: we were busy. Really busy.
Like an epidemic, guilt spread among us and the turtle’s care was no longer a pleasure, but a burden. And when this happens, something is out of alignment. Because nothing destined should feel forced or be met with resistance.
I knew change was on the horizon.
The other day, while outside cleaning the tank----yes, by now the animal’s entire care had befallen me---I noticed water leaking. After searching for several minutes, I detected the slightest crack in the glass bottom as minuscule drops seeped out one at a time.
A choice had to be made.
When I picked up the kids from school, I reminded them about our agreement. The initial investment for all turtle-related supplies was mine, but anything further would come out of their own pockets.
“You either replace the tank or let him go free,” I instructed.
After careful consideration and deliberation, my eldest relayed the kid-jury’s verdict.
She sobbed, “I’ve taken Rainbow Jr. for granted and I really want a more 'interactive pet.'” (Really? You just noticed that a baby turtle isn’t that much fun?)
“Although I really do love him,” she sighed, “I think he needs more space. He should be free. It’s selfish of us to keep him here when we barely spend time with him.”
“Ok,” I concluded, “tomorrow after school we’ll bring him to the lake.”
I gave her a big hug. Mama was proud.
So in resignation, the kids came home from school and all stretched out on the front lawn, letting Rainbow Jr. crawl all around. Ironically, they began detaching by spending more time with him than ever before.
“It’s time to go,” I advised, interrupting their fun after 45 minutes, “the sun is setting soon and we have to find a safe place for him.”
They gathered a bouquet of wild flowers and when we got to the lake, they ceremoniously tossed them in. Then we found a hidden, shallow eddy near the water’s edge and gently released him.
Tomorrow the kids want to return to the lake to pay Rainbow Jr. a visit.
Perhaps. But right now we’re heading back to the house for some homemade brownies.
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