There are a few things you should know about Buddy the Turtle, our family’s newest pet.

This is a true story.

  1. Buddy the Turtle is about four and a half inches long. He has a beautiful tan and brown shell. His legs and feet look like they belong to a tiny elephant, not a turtle. This makes him look clumsy and adorable. His slow movements seemed deliberate and wise. His mouth looked a little bit like he was smiling, all the time. I have never met a more charming turtle.
  2. Our family (or, more accurately, my husband Reza and I) named the turtle Buddy right away, even before we left the pet store where we bought him last week, because Buddy it is the newest word our nearly-2-year-old twin boys can say. They enunciate the “d” so carefully and and extend the “ee” sound at the end. It’s very cute. So it was selfish on our part, because now we get to hear them say this word constantly.
  3. After we had paid for Buddy and all his supplies at the pet store, as we were walking out the door slowly, carefully, carrying him in his new shiny aquarium out to the car, the pet store guy casually said Good Luck and wished us a long life together. We asked, “Yeah! Hey by the way, how long do these things live?” “Forty or fifty years, if you take care of them,” he replied.
  4. “Oh, wow. And they stay this size?” we asked. “No, they can grow to 200 pounds,” he said matter-of-factly. Alright, it’s true that Buddy was an impulse buy. But Reza and I can be proud and stubborn (not respectively, collectively), to dangerous degrees, and turning around to reconsider this purchase was not an option. I think one of us acknowledged the pet store guy with a stoic, confident, cavalier, “Great, thanks.” We didn’t break our pace toward the car. We took this kind of thing in stride. 200 pounds? Ha. Well then, Buddy would be 215 pounds and outlive everyone we knew. We would break all records for largest and oldest and most awesome turtles ever raised in captivity. (We never spoke this thought out loud to one another. But it was there.)
  5. In the car we sat Buddy the Turtle in his aquarium in between the boys’ identical car seats and they sang him the bits of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star that they know and insisted he have half of their afternoon snack, apple slices without the skin.
  6. When we got home I tried to research more about Buddy and Googled “African spurred turtle,” which I had remembered from the sign at the pet store. But Google corrected me in its passive aggressive way, showing results instead for “African spurred tortoise,” all boldfaced and italicized, and probably rolling its Googley eyes at me for being so foolish about the pet we had just purchased and brought home without even knowing what kind of animal he was. I mean who does that?
  7. Holy @#$!%. I had gotten sucked into a YouTube video of some one else’s African spurred tortoise at age 11. It was as big as a tricycle and ate entire bunches of kale and gulped apples whole. It had its own room in the house. None of the humans in our house even have their own room.
  8. The boys made up a new song to sing before bedtime about Buddy the Turtle, set to, of course Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. The only words were Buddy, Tuh-tle, and “I yuv you.”
  9. Buddy was immediately inserted him into bedtime prayers, after we thanked God for the grandparents, and before thanking God for several other family members that will remain unnamed but who should not be offended by the new order of priority. We were shocked anyone even got to be on that list before Buddy.
  10. Every day for the last week the boys have insisted I draw them picture after picture of Buddy the Turtle, with every color crayon they own. They demanded it, banging their crayons excitedly on the table and shouting: Mama! Buddy! Big! Make Buddy geeen! Buddy! Small! Mama peeeease! Buddy! Do! Geeeen Buddy! Byack! Yeyyow Buddy! Bwown!!
  11. Google told us to give Buddy lots of fresh vegetables and to give him direct sunlight and a warm climate to live in. After all he is an African Spurred Tortoise and his grandparents probably roamed around deserts in Ethopia. So we put Buddy in his shiny aquarium outside yesterday when it was nearly 100 degrees, pleased that we live in such a perfect environment for him. We gave him a little extra water and some freshly grated zucchini that I had leftover from what I had snuck into the boys’ scrambled eggs that morning.
  12. After we put the boys in their cribs to sleep and poured ourselves a glass of wine and already had dinner going, we remembered that Buddy was still outside. I put my wine down and walked out onto the deck, the air cool and the stone table where Buddy had been all day still warm. I picked up the aquarium and brought it inside. Buddy was already sleeping, silly guy.
  13. No, wait. Buddy doesn’t look right.
  14. We put Buddy in my iPhone 5 box. He fit perfectly. We buried him in the front yard in the dark, between the avocado tree and the king palm. I cried for a surprising length of time.

This morning, the boys woke up and asked if Buddy was awake and if he could play, meaning, if we could take him out of the shiny aquarium and let him walk around the living room so they could watch him and giggle. Buddy, wake? Buddy walk? We said Buddy was still sleeping.

Reza and I have not spoken of Buddy. There have been no questions about whether we should have brought the aquarium inside earlier that day, or who should have done that. Neither of us dares mention that at least we will have saved a ton of time and effort and money that Buddy would have required of us over the years, even though we see the relief and the shame in each others’ faces. There will be no autopsy.

Instead, tonight, when the air has cooled and the sun is setting, we will drink our wine and sit on the deck, at the stone table that will still be warm from the day, and we will admire the living things in our yard, the avocado tree and the king palm and the dozen more, and we will talk about what the boys did and said today, and acknowledge only the joys of tending to the small creatures in our care.