Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Shell Shocked

We have a thing for turtles.

It all started when I was 10, and our summer vacation -- to the coastal New Jersey town of Sea Isle City -- coincided with the Diamondback terrapin nesting season. Daddy Bruschetta and I first encountered a turtle wandering through our yard, and after shuttling her to a more private location to lay her eggs, we were hooked. For the remainder of our vacation -- and during our subsequent summers in Sea Isle City -- Daddy Bruschetta's euphoria grew exponentially with each turtle we transported to safety (often stopping cars from crushing the poor things in the middle of the town's busy streets), and he made sure I stayed involved in these endeavors.


The task at hand was "turtle hunting," a misnomer we coined for our pastime -- seeking out and assisting turtles in distress. After studying their nesting patterns, Daddy Bruschetta and I began an annual grassroots rescue effort. During my first year on turtle "missions," I served as little more than his assistant. He cornered the turtle, he picked it up, he carried it to safety. With time, however, I desired a more active role, and soon, I was eagerly stepping forward to snatch turtles out of harm's way. Today, I'll pick up any diamondback (they're not snappers, after all!).

To onlookers and passers-by, we were dutiful environmentalists; however, in reality, "turtling" was an essential, and extremely enjoyable, part of our yearly vacation which offered a way, albeit unconventional, of giving back.

Several years ago, with family vacations a thing of the past, I drove down to Sea Isle City on a day-trip to interact again with the reptiles and introduce Mr. Bruschetta to turtling. Initially, the mister exhibited the same hesitation towards plucking the terrapins from the street that I had 10 years earlier. Soon, though, he embraced this bizarre summer ritual. And for the past few summers, we've been selecting several isolated days over a period of several weeks for abbreviated missions.

We're a team of three now, and the funny thing is, the dynamic when I'm with both Mr. and Daddy Bruschetta is constantly changing. Sometimes, I feel like it's still father-daughter quality time, as was the case with our first-ever turtle excursions. At other times, though, I feel like the third wheel, eavesdropping on some serious male bonding, as the mister and my father discuss everything from baseball to politics. It's a quintessential part of our summer now, and even with the wedding fast approaching, we found time to make three visits -- in late May, mid June and early July -- to continue our tradition.

(Trust me, there is a wedding connection -- but you'll have to wait for more details in a future post!)

Have you and/or your fiance joined in any of each other's family rituals?

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