Childhood Pets

They come home to roost

By Lee Ann “Sunny” Brown

Freedom is so close I can almost schedule it. Almost. It’s been “almost” for the last five years now, ever since I became an “empty nester.” And yet, I still don’t have my freedom. I still cannot just pick up and go until my daughter finds an apartment with a south facing window. My entire enjoyment of the carefree life depends on this. It’s only then that I will be able to hand her Russian land tortoise, Yoshi, that I have been caring for since she graduated high school, back over to her. Beware, my newly empty nester friends—the children might leave home, but their childhood pets live on with you.

In the beginning having to stay home wasn’t much of problem because we still had our beloved, elderly dog who was too old and frail to risk boarding. So, we just resigned ourselves to the fact that we could not go anywhere for longer than four hours, round trip. That went on for the last year and a half. We lost her a few months ago. And, after much grieving, my husband tried to get me to see the positive side that we could now pack up and venture farther than Pell City and back. And then the reality set in that we still had the tortoise.

My daughter convinced me she didn’t have the time to care for her tortoise since she was working all day and often out of town on weekends. And, truthfully, I’m afraid she might not give her the loving care I do: the walks, the fresh organic lettuces, the juicy strawberries, and her favorite bananas and radicchio. Because I’ve grown fond of Yoshi. She is actually pretty social, for a tortoise. Of course, she is the only one I’ve ever known so I guess she could be a total bitch. Anyway, if my husband and I are ever going to realize the potential of our empty nester status, I realized I needed to start thinking about who I could entrust her care to. I thought of taking her to the zoo in my purse and sneaking her into the tortoise exhibit, but my daughter informed me that tortoises there are all HUGE and would totally notice her just showing up. Although, just give Yoshi another 100 years and she’ll get there. In fact, Yoshi will probably outlive us all to be about 125. I am going to have to will her to someone.

Or, I could just give her back to my daughter and let her deal with her. At least I can check up on her. But then I got the call from my daughter asking if we could please (very pleading tone) keep her Bonsai tree. I Googled it; they have been known to live to be 500 years old. I mixed me a drink.

The story is that her boyfriend gave her this tree and apparently it is dying because it doesn’t get enough sunlight in her apartment. Before I could make up my mind, she had already brought it over and set it in the window in her old room right by the tortoise. I asked if Yoshi might reach the leaves and eat them, kill the tree and herself, and rid us of both of them at once. It was a joke. Well, I laughed. But then I was having a drink.

This bonsai must be some sort of symbol of my daughter and her boyfriend’s relationship. Every other day I get a text asking me to take a picture of it and send it to her. She gets upset if there is one less leaf on it than two days before. So, in addition to the strict watering and light instructions, I now find myself checking for any leaves that might have fallen and try to take a picture that hides them. Actually, I get my husband, Billy, to do it, because as a photographer he is used to making pictures that hide all kinds of facts, and lie. (I am not, of course, talking about any of the photos he takes of me. #Hahahahahaha!)

While I hope the best for the tree, if it doesn’t make it, I’ve vowed just to give her the bad news and send her on her way with my condolences and some money to buy a new one. And, of course, I will hand her her tortoise. Then I am going to book my next trip. And, text her to send me pictures of Yoshi. I want to see how she’s doing.

I suggest if you want to be free and enjoy being an empty nester that you do not buy your youngest child a pet after the age of two, considering your pet could live to be 16, as ours did, or longer, in which case you’ll have to wait until your child graduates college before you are free. However, then you run the risk of your child returning home just as you say goodbye to your pet. It’s all in the timing, and very tricky. Otherwise, RIP Freedom.

Now, I am helping my daughter do some apartment hunting. Keep your fingers crossed we find one with a south facing window and lots of sunlight. 

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