I had a pet turtle once.
I know. Not an exciting start. Stay with me.
I named him Mikey after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Michelangelo. Every time I would go toy shopping, I’d always look for a Michelangelo action figure, but all they ever had was Raphael.
The orange-clad mutant reptilian herbivore was my a favorite at the time, but the older I got the more I identified with Raphael.
Sans action figure, the next best thing was having a real turtle.
I don’t remember if Mikey was my first pet, but I do remember I had a strong emotional attachment to the animal.
This turtle had it made. It lived in an extremely large turtle-shaped sandbox that had been converted into the ideal habitat. This turtle box stayed on our front porch. This was before homeowner associations were a thing.
I don’t know how long turtles are supposed to live, but I didn’t get to find out how long Mikey would’ve lived.
Here’s what happened.
It was summer, vacation season, and my family was all set to go somewhere. I don’t remember where we were going.
The tragedy that’s about to unfold probably meant I’ve put up a mental block to all of the events that surround this period of time in my life.
According to my parents, we couldn’t leave Mikey in his extra-large habitat while we were gone. So he was going to have to go stay with my cousin.
I love my cousin. I know in Alabama you have to be careful when you say stuff like that, but we’re not from “that” part of Alabama.
But I want to say that first, because what happened next wasn’t really her fault.
We loaded Mikey up in a little turtle carrier and headed out to my cousin’s house.
My cousin goes to get the turtle out of the carrier and he falls onto his back.
This is not a comfortable position for a turtle, and it’s possible for them to break their necks trying to flip back over.
Luckily we were there to flip the little guy over before anything bad happened.
But then, in a leap of logic I still don’t fully understand, that incident meant we just had to let Mikey return to the wild.
“It’s the best thing for him,” they said.
“He’ll be happier,” they said.
I was bawling. They had me convinced I was making a responsible and grown-up decision, though.
So we marked his shell with a little nail polish, you know in case he came back, and turned him loose in the woods behind my aunt’s house.
There’s a lesson in that experience. If you think it had something to do with making tough personal decisions for the betterment of others, or something like that, you’re wrong.
Y’all. Mikey was a turtle that lived outside of our house. We only fed him once a week. He was self-sufficient.
It was never about giving Mikey a better place to live. It was about getting rid of that monstrous turtle-shaped sandbox.