Ten years ago my sister brought home two turtles. They were the class pets and at the end of the school year they had no place to go. So my sister, who has an affinity for stray animals, told the teacher that my family would take them. Taking care of the turtles was easy at first. They were so cute and tiny. They lived in a small aquarium in the kitchen and were constantly trying to escape.
As the years went on they got bigger- a lot bigger- and by an ingenious method of standing on each other’s backs, had almost managed to climb their way out of the aquarium. In order to prevent this they had to be moved out of the house, into the driveway, into a baby pool.
I had since gone away to college and would come home and see the turtles (in the driveway, in a baby pool) and it was quite depressing. They weren’t nearly as cute as they once were and they were still desperately trying to claw their way to freedom. Or so we thought.
The constant yet fruitless attempts to escape eventually wore on my dad. With the blessing of some local turtle experts (the yellow pages are pretty amazing) my dad decided the turtles should be free. So he got up early one morning, fed them, put them in a box, and walked them down the hill to the pond on the eighth hole of the golf course. Now this is a pretty steep hill. The walk down is fine but the walk up winds you every single time.
A year went by. On a recent afternoon my dad had taken Penny, his miniature dachshund, out to play. Penny ran into the yard and was suddenly startled. My dad walked down to see what scared her, and lo and behold, it was one of the turtles. This turtle had climbed its way up what can only be considered Mount Everest to get back to our house. My dad picked it up and instead of reverting back into its shell, the turtle fully extended its neck, arms, and legs in what, according to my father, was a moment of bliss unlike anything this creature had ever known. My father put it in a box, fed it by hand, remade the baby pool, and vowed never to let the turtle free again. He told me it was an omen. At first I dismissed it as the ramblings of a crazy old man. But the more I think about it, maybe he’s right. Maybe it’s not an omen but a message. Maybe the walls from which we a desperately trying to escape are the very things that make us feel happy and safe. Maybe a life surrounded by the people you love is all you really need. Maybe the baby pool is nicer then the big giant pond. And maybe we really can go home again.