By Gaby Mejia
I remember the times when my mother would tell my sisters and I not to name an animal we knew we couldn’t keep. We would pout and look down in disappointment as she told us that it was best “not get too attached”. Needless to say, we rarely followed her advice.
As some old habits never die, we named every turtle we worked with- Betsy, Beatriz, Martha, and all the Ninja Turtle names (which we modified into more feminine versions like “Donatella”). They were all hard working mothers who pushed themselves beyond all limits the moment their flippers first landed on the shore. One could watch as they (with their incredible biceps) dragged themselves to the perfect spot on the beach. Sometimes they would find this perfect nesting place right away, and sometimes it would take them over 30 minutes of upper-body work out to roam around the beach until it was found. This was not an easy task, but it was one they were willing to take to guarantee the safety of their eggs.
Tonight was our last night to work with the sea turtles. After much star-gazing, story-telling, and snack-eating for a couple of hours, our last turtle finally came determinately out of the water. Unlike the other turtles, this one was a smaller one with a carapace of 141cm in length. She moved all the way to the end of the clear path of the sand and rummaged around until she finally settled and began to dig her nest. The process was done like most, artistically and gracefully, by digging her rear flippers into the sand and carefully twisting and lifting it to dump it to the side. I knelt down by her side to witness in admiration this astonishing process. I placed my hand on her back and soothingly caressed her. Now and then her carapace would lift up and her head would slowly shake from one side to the other as she drew heavy breaths.
“You are doing so well, you are almost there” I softly whispered to her.
Curious to feel her breathing, I gently placed my ear on her soft carapace. The feeling was incredible, she was so precious. At that moment I thought of a name for her.
“Have we named this turtle yet?” I asked.
“Not yet, have any ideas?” Leah responded as she was getting ready to tag her.
“Yes! How about Emma?” I answered.
One of the definitions of the name Emma is “complete and whole.” Even though I did not know it at the moment, the sincerity and gentleness of the name instantly made it seem right, and I was happy to later find out what it meant. Emma was demonstrating the perfect example of life with all its completeness and wholeness.
Once we finished collecting the needed data on her, we stood aside. She rushed towards the crashing waves the same way she had when she emerged from them. She had finished her job for tonight, but we all knew that, even though we weren’t going to be present, that she was going to come back to do the same process five or six more times. We also knew that each time she would do it as dutifully and diligently as this one. It’s what it took to be a mother and Emma knew it.
“Good bye Emma! Good bye!” We cheered and waved happily after her as she finally submerged completely into the ocean.