Some turtles are for eating, like those scrumptious turtle-shaped chocolate candies with pecans and caramel made famous by De Met’s. In 1950, right after I met my late husband, Harold, he took a trip back to Chicago to visit relatives. I wasn’t sure of his interest in me until I unexpectedly received a box of De Met’s Turtles from him while he was away. I interpreted that as a positive omen.
Some turtles are symbolic . For the bar mitzvah of my grandson, Zachary, I wore a necklace created by a Native American artist featuring a turtle. In creation myths of numerous tribes, they believe that the earth was created on the turtle’s back. To me, it seemed appropriate for a folklorist Granny to wear a Native American traditional symbol to a traditional Jewish coming of age ceremony.
Some turtles are the centerpiece of celebrations. This past weekend in Las Cruces at the Tortugas (Turtles) Pueblo they held an annual Tortugas Festival. Key to this event is a turtle race, where turtles of all sizes compete – from the small souvenir types that children keep in small bowls of water to giant desert tortoises that can weigh up to 50 pounds.
But for me, the highlight of my turtle- filled life has been the adoption of an adorable new cat, Tortuga, named so because she is a variety of tortoise-shell feline.
“Tuga” is about two years old and had been neglected by her original owner who lay dead at home for four days before anyone realized it. When the body was taken away by authorities, Tuga was taken to an animal shelter but later rescued by a concerned neighbor who thought this cat would be a good fit for me. Not only is Tuga a good fit, she is PURRFECT.
Tuga has faced tough times in her short life. Consequently she is so hungry for love and attention, she snuggles all night in my bed giving me kisses. During the day, she trots by my side like Mary’s Little Lamb.
Tuga is not a replacement for my dear departed Tom, the rescue cat who rescued me from depression after I became a widow. Tom remains in my heart and will continue to be my logo in his Dracula cape. However, Tuga represents moving on and my being able to make a welcoming home for another helpless and abandoned creature.
Norine Dresser is a folklorist who is grateful to have a lovable new furry companion.