This was originally posted on http://www.yetthereismethod.net/
“Mr. Gels, I’ve got a turtle for you.”
“Um, huh?” The look on my face must have been an interesting one, as kids continued to file around us into the classroom to start their school day. Students have brought me a lot of different things over the years, but this was a new one.
“I bought him for you in Florida,” he said, as he held a well-used food container in my direction. The container certainly wasn’t store-bought (not recently, anyway), but there was indeed a turtle within it, suspended at the surface of an inch or so of water, looking, well, like a very small turtle with no place to go. Not panicked or frantic. Resigned, really. “He wasn’t expensive; I bought him with my own money.”
Okay, a short word about my student: (Here’s where I’d write about him if I could, but that’s not something I’m free to do because of the privacy concerns we all know about. Thinking about him, though, reminds me of the stories I could tell.) I miss him and think of him often. Fond memories, and all of that.
A shorter word about me: The turtle was not something I could resist. It was a gift, right? Purchased with his own money…how could I turn it down? I’m a sucker for stuff like that.
An even shorter word about the turtle story: It was actually caught in the neighborhood pond. The kid confessed a few years later. Sigh. That kid.
The turtle spent the rest of the day in that same container, sitting on the counter at the back of my classroom. That night I took the first of many trips to the pet supply store, getting the supplies needed to set up a suitable habitat in the classroom. The first of many, indeed–over the years, I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on that turtle. I keep her for a variety of reasons, but one is the attachment to that student I feel through her.
As I’m wrapping up this short story, I feel like there’s more unsaid than said. Life’s like that sometimes, isn’t it?
The turtle, well, she’s a slice of my life, splashing when she’s hungry and basking under her light when she’s not. She’s a connection to my past and a pleasure for the students of my present.
Donations kindly accepted, just not another turtle, please.
Note: I know I changed the gender of the turtle as the story progressed. For years, the turtle was “Mr. Tuttles.” Then, a few summers ago, she laid four eggs. We call her “Ms. Ruby,” now.