Terrorpin Dreams

May 17, 1998
  There's trouble at the Atkins household lately.  Big trouble.  Turtle trouble.

You see, Zoe's starting to have nightmares -- at least I think that's what's happening.  What I'm sure of is that there are a couple of things in the world that she doesn't like, things that scare her.  One of them is Santa Claus, who I'll deal with later.  The other is turtles.  Specifically, baby turtles.  So several nights a week now after we've put Zoe to bed, she'll wake up crying in the middle of the night.  I go in there and pat her head and rub her back while I try to decipher what she's bleating between blobs of drool and spouting tears. When I finally figure it out, it's usually the same thing. The problem seems to be that there are turtles either in or under her bed.  Baby turtles.

Being the good daddy that I am, I give the room a thorough look-see and assure her that there are no turtles to be found.  Zoe seems doubtful.  I tell her that all the turtles went away, which cheers her slightly.  "Where baby turtles go, Daddy?" she asks.  When I tell her they've gone away, far away, she is reassured.  "Turtles go 'way?" Yes, sweetie, far away.  Zoe then flops back down, ready to go back to sleep.  Zoe already knows about far away; she knows it's a good place for the turtles to be. Far away, you see, is where Santa is, which is just where Zoe likes him.

Zoe and Santa got off to a rough start.  We took her to see the jolly old elf back in December, bent on getting a cute photo of Zoe sitting in Santa's lap.  We eventually got the photo, but cute isn't the word I'd use to describe it.  Traumatized, perhaps.  Zoe didn't like this big stranger in the weird clothes with the white hair all over his face.  She didn't want to look at him, didn't want to go near him, definitely didn't want to sit on his lap.  Being the sensitive, caring parents we are, we forced her.  Beth sat down next to the old lech with Zoe on her lap and held on grimly as Zoe wriggled, writhed, screamed, cried and generally pleaded for help from all corners.  We got the picture, dammit, but at the potential price of future Christmases.

Zoe flat out doesn't like Santa now, and whenever she asks where he is, the only answer that will do is "far away." "Far 'way?" she'll ask. "Very far away," we answer. And she is satisfied, until the next time visions of Satan Claus pass through her head. But still she has this odd bogey-man tag-team thing going on with Santa and baby turtles. It's odd, to be sure, and something that might give me nightmares, too.

We obviously know where the Santa angle came from, but we're stumped about the turtles. As far as I know, Zoe's never actually seen a turtle, at least not up close and personal. The closest she's come to one is a background character in one of the books we read her: "Is Your Mama A Llama?" This is the book that must be read when we put her on the toilet. Nothing can happen, nothing will flow, until Beth or I hunker down on the floor in front of her and start reading about Lloyd the llama asking all his friends if their mamas are llamas. (My personal twist is that Lloyd, his friend Llynn and llama all get pronounced with double l's: Lu-Loyd/Lu-Lynn/lu-lama. Zoe's two, she's easily amused. Best audience I've ever had.)

When you get to the part where Lu-Loyd asks Freddie the gosling if his mama's a lu-lama, there's a turtle in the background sitting on a clutch of eggs, watching the action. Zoe usually points to this turtle and identifies it as a duck. Helpful soul that I am, I correct her and explain that it's a turtle and that the eggs are baby turtles. "Turtle?" Zoe asks tremulously. "Yes, turtle," I explain, "and those are the babies." Zoe gives the turtle a wary glare and turns the page. Then she has nightmares.

I think maybe I'd better knock off with the helpful corrections...

Copyright © 1998
Chuck Atkins