A turtle by any other name…

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I got a postcard in the mail today. It was from our 10-year-old daughter, Kate. Oddly enough, it was Kate who checked the mailbox on the day the postcard arrived. She’d written and mailed it from summer camp two weeks earlier.

When we picked her up from camp, she asked me if I’d received the postcard she’d sent, and I told her we hadn’t. I asked if she remembered the address correctly, and she dutifully recited it back to me with no mistakes.

“And did you remember to put the zip code on it?” I asked.

“Oh,” she said. “Maybe not.”

I told her the postcard might still make it to us eventually and that I was glad she’d tried to send it. For her generation, old-fashioned mail – with its envelopes, stamps and pesky zip codes – seems far more complicated than the text messages and emojis she and her friends send off with lightning speed. But the summer camp she attends believes in an “old school” approach to summer fun – no electronics allowed – which is one of the reasons we like it.

On the backside of the postcard, Kate had written this message: “Dear Mom, I’m having a great time here, but I still miss you. Can you send me a picture of Todd in his tank? Love, Kate. P.S. I have a surprise for Todd.”

The “Todd” she asked about in the postcard is the newest member of the Rockwood family. He is a two-inch turtle we found clinging to life while swirling around in our pool’s skimmer filter. The kids fished him out and put him in a shoebox so he could rest. Then they googled “What do turtles eat” and put some chopped up apples into the box. But Todd wasn’t interested in eating, probably due to the shock of being stuck in a filter as well as the dramatic rescue operation performed by three kids.

turtle-182121_640 200So, one thing led to another and a couple of hours later, Todd the Turtle was in a new aquarium set up in Kate’s room, complete with fresh water, smooth rocks and a turtle bridge. Then the kids introduced him to fancy turtle food they bought at the pet store – tiny freeze-dried shrimp – which smells as bad as it sounds.

The next day, Kate had to leave for summer camp so she made her dad and brothers promise they’d take care of Todd while she was gone. The boys did some online research and determined that Todd is a red-eared slider turtle, which means he can grow to be a foot long and can live up to 70 years. (We’ll need to have a turtle liberation ceremony before that happens.) They also determined, based on a few tips from Google, that Todd is most likely a girl.

So by the time Kate came home from camp, Todd had undergone a name change and now goes by the name of Zippy (as much as a turtle goes by any name. Rest assured Zippy does not come crawling when called.)

For the record, I wasn’t on board with the decision to make Zippy a pet. If you ask me, reptiles are the animals that nightmares are made of. But even I have to admit that a baby turtle isn’t scary. And we do enjoy watching her swim around the tank, eat the tiny freeze-dried shrimp, and stare at her own reflection in the glass. Nobody knows how to “chill” quite like Zippy.

That “surprise” that Kate mentioned in her camp postcard? It turned out to be a miniature stuffed animal – a green turtle – wearing a tiny t-shirt with the camp logo on it. Kate proudly held it over Zippy’s tank so she could get a good look. I asked her if she thought Zippy liked it, and she said the turtle blinked slowly when she saw it, which we can only assume is a sign of deep appreciation.

So, welcome to the family, Zippy. Stay in your tank and we’ll get along just fine.

gwen rockwoodGwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.



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