There’s an old saying about loving something and setting it free. And while the sentiment has a lovely ring to it as it is plastered across the internet by lovelorn teenagers as a romantically font-ed tagline on heavily unfocused photographs of sunsets and seasides, I won’t get into the ethical dilemmas surrounding the possibility of setting free your captive-bred hamster into the wild because you love it, even though the closest thing he has known to freedom is rolling down the hallway in his clear plastic ball of fun, and the occasional crazy adventure as that ball cascades down the single step in to your 70’s style sunken living room. For some fuzzy little rodents, freedom may really be a quickly executed death sentence because the pine tree outside your house is home to a giant owl (possibly named Clyde) and the fields are full of coyotes and foxes, just looking for a nugget sized snack.
But I digress.
I have a new saying I would like to flood the internet with: If you have a slight fondness for something, but someone else has a true adoration for it, you should hand it over. No questions asked.
I have (okay, had, but we’ll get to that part of the tale soon enough) two turtles- Gong Bao and Ji Ding. (Their names together, literally mean “palace style chicken cutlets,” but are more commonly known in the US as kung pao chicken.) Last summer, as Thad and I wandered People’s Park on a humid Sunday afternoon, I couldn’t help but rescue these two little creatures which were being sold in tiny plastic bottles. (Click here for the full account of that Tilt O’Whirl and turtle filled day.) With my new family-recruits in-hand, we rushed home to get them out of their death-cages and into a big tub with water and a brick for sunning themselves.
Over the course of the last five months, Gong Bao and Ji Ding have lived in their tub, either on the living room floor, where if there is sunshine to be had, they will be the first recipients, or in the bathroom under the heat lamps that serve as a substitute sun. I feed them regularly, change their water a couple of times a week and occasionally giggle at they create turtle stacks. But really, that is the extent of our relationship. They are cute, but not cuddly. An undying bond has not been forged. I can only tell them apart because Gong Bao has a slightly darker colored shell and tends to be a bit less skitterish when someone comes in to share their bathroom space. (I don’t think Thad ever could tell them apart. Hopefully we never have twins.) They were slightly amusing, but that was the extent of my connection to them.
With our R&R tickets bought and travel plans completed, we needed someone to turtle-sit while we were out of town, enjoying the single-digit temperatures of Idaho for three weeks. Thad has a colleague in the consular section, one of the local staff, who used to have a tiny turtle, but it passed away this fall. She was devastated by the turtle’s untimely demise and they had talked about their mutual turtle-tending. If she were willing, we knew she would be the perfect sitter for our tiny reptilian friends. (Her devotion to her own turtle was so whole-hearted that she had her mom knit it a blanket and she took it on turtle-play dates with a neighbors turtles.)
When Thad approached her about watching the turtles for a couple of weeks, she was thrilled! She thanked him profusely for trusting her with them and told him on multiple occasions how excited she was to have them in her house while we were out of the country.
So, with that, the turtle transfer was made.
Fast forward three weeks.
We got back from R&R (had a great time at home but painful trips in both directions!) and were back at work. In the afternoon of that first day back, Thad and I got an email from our turtle-sitter that included the following pictures as attachments.
She clearly cares about these turtles much more than I do. Yes, I like them. Like. To be honest, full days would go by that I wouldn’t even look at the undersized creatures. But obviously, this was not the case with their sitter. Not only did she say that she talked to them for two hours every evening, but she allowed them one hour of TV-time and they had an assigned bedtime. I’m not that strict when I babysit my nieces and nephews, let alone with the cold-blooded residents of my house!
After a short meeting in my office, Thad and I quickly came to the conclusion that the turtles should stay at their new home, if she would have them. There was no way we could, in good conscience, not allow her to have the little guys. I have a slight fondness for them, but she loved them! When Thad asked her if she would like to keep the turtles, she got teary-eyed and thanked him over and over.
This all happened on Tuesday. On Friday afternoon, Thad got an instant message from this colleague telling him that she bought him a cake as a thank-you for the turtles. He, of course, told him that a cake wasn’t necessary and that we are happy for her to have them, but she insisted we take it home. In true Chinese cake fashion, it was light sponge cake covered in a super thick layer of fluffy frosting, topped in fruit. Always topped in fruit.
So, I send a plea out to all angst-ridden teenagers with basic Photoshop skills and access to whimsical pictures and fonts. Make this your newest post on Facebook, Pintrest, Tumblr, Twitter and Reddit:
If you have a slight fondness for something, but someone else has a true adoration for it, you should hand it over. No questions asked.
I did. It earned me a cake.