A Turtle Came Visiting

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Kaison and the turtle

Our children are learning new words: coronavirus, quarantine, social distancing, sanitizers and pandemic, words a few weeks ago were not on the tongues of any of us. But now that the weight of this disease has fallen upon our planet let’s look for some positives.

We thought we were leaving for Ireland on Friday, a long expected trip with our Birmingham children and grandchildren. But the coronavirus changed all that. Suddenly our priorities are turned to finding toilet tissue and sanitizers,  canceling hotel reservations and trying to get refunds on cancelled flights, and–taking care of children on prolonged school vacations.

That’s where the positives begin. This morning on national television, I heard a father of six or seven, a retired athlete, expressing his thanks for the special opportunity of spending quality time with his children. I feel the same way. The days will stretch long as the weeks go by. But we’re going to have just as much fun as we can!

So far, we’ve done leaf rubbings, a scavenger hunt, and created art work to send to Aunt Jackie who has to stay home. We’ve played several games (I’m holding some in reserve!), climbed trees, and spent lots of time swinging on the porch.

Inevitably boredom does settle in and it takes a lot of energy for an old great-grandmother to keep things lively. So there for a bit I was at a loss. I was considering whether we might set to and clean the splattered floor or maybe cut the mint for making a jelly fusion. Suddenly there was a rustle in the deep monkey grass beside the porch. The children began cautiously investigating and then let out piercing screams of terror, then delight. There was a turtle in the grass.

Now, this is not just any turtle, as I explained to the two. I know this turtle by name. This tortoise/woods turtle has lived at this house as long as we have. Charles smeared one dollop of red paint on his shell when first he appeared six years ago. At rare intervals he will show up, sometimes eats cat food, basically turtles around as if curious and maybe a little lonely. Red, as we call him, had not been to see us in a long while but he showed up on a very good day, perfect timing.

The children welcomed Red ecstatically. They wanted to pick him up, then squealed and jerked back, asking me to pick him up, which I did. Soon they were taking turns holding him and wishing he would stick his head out. We let Red visit on the porch for a while so we could observe his movements. We talked about his interesting shell of a home and about his only defense being to draw into that home. As we waited quietly, a very hard thing for Kaison to do, Red finally edged his head out and then put down his leathery legs and began to move.

The whole episode from wild discovery to wistful turning loose was far better than any movie.

Today Kaison said, “I wish I could find Red again.”

“Red will come when he gets ready,” I told him. “You probably scared him so he’s gone into permanent hiding.”

Not long after that, we heard screams and babbling. The children ran to the house fearlessly carrying Red. They had found him near the blueberry bushes. I didn’t feel sorry for the old turtle. He had definitely asked for it this time. I could only think he was lonely and bored and needed some excitement like the rest of us.

Red had another good visit on the porch during which he hid his face for a while before clicking about and showing that turtles are not as slow as they’re given credit for. It was with great compassion and some sadness that the children delivered Red to a space of lawn from whence he could find his way home. We watched as he slowly realized he was free and began his journey.

At a time when friends are advised to stay home, when churches can’t have meetings, when schools are closed and restrictions abound, a turtle came to visit. I can only think that God daily watches out for bored children and tired great grandmothers.

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