Turtle’s Dream Comes True

{ Hello again friends! My lack of discipline in keeping up with documenting our travels has not gone unnoticed, and so (after a few gentle prods) here I am in an attempt to catch up! I am going to try to get you up to speed with our adventures from the past few months by working backwards, starting with our trip to Atlanta this past weekend. }

In a few short weeks our middle child, Turtle, will turn 5. In many ways the classic middle child Turtle is quiet and contemplative. He delights in nature, and finds particular joy in ocean creatures. He has hoards of oceanic themed books stuffed at the foot of his bunk and under his mattress (non fiction books, mind you, as Turtle is a stickler for what’s ‘real’ and what’s not). Tattered and torn these books are his constant companion, he pours over them with such intense fascination that many times I find myself absorbed in just watching him purposely thumb through each book.


I don’t remember when but some time ago he declared his new favorite animal to be the whale shark. One can hardly blame him, these gentle giants have a tranquil nature and their size alone make them awe inspiring. I found myself once again swept up in his interests (the fervor in which he approaches each new ‘favorite’ makes it impossible not to be pulled in). Together we researched, watched documentaries and read about them. After a while videos were not enough, he wanted, he needed to see a whale shark in person. A trip to the Australian coast seemed off limits for the time, so we looked for another option. Google led us to the knowledge that the only whale sharks in captivity in the US are at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. It seemed temptingly close at the time as we were in North Carolina, but in reality it would have taken us just as long to get to the sharks as it would from Ohio. Turtle had to be placated with promises of ‘someday.’

A month ago when Tom told me we were going to Alabama one of first things I did was see how far we’d be from the Georgia Aquarium. Just three hours, I couldn’t believe it! And we’d be there during Turtle’s birthday- it was meant to be. At long last I booked the campsite for Atlanta and told the kids of our surprise adventure. I tried to keep it all hush hush but they were able to squeeze the location out of me. And having heard “Georgia” Princess immediately squealed “GEORGIA! Did you hear that Turtle, GEORGIA!! That’s where the whale sharks are, I bet we’re going to see whale sharks!!” I tried to convince her she was mistaken, but she was sure, she remembered distinctly watching the web cam feed of the whale sharks in GEORGIA. I silently took note that she actually does listen to me, about completely random things, but at least she is listening. I told them ‘we’ll see’ but I know she wasn’t buying it. In the car on the way to our weekend adventure I could hold it in no longer. Despite the predictions from Princess Turtle was still speechless. He hardly said a word, but his giggles and wagging tongue (a sure sign you’ve made Turtle truly happy) gave him away. I don’t know whose heart was overflowing more, mine or his.


I could say a lot of things about the aquarium itself. The cost is a bit shocking. The crowds were unbelievable. I had read that it gets crowded, but I was not prepared for the hoards of people. The sound of chatter alone was enough that you had to shout at each other to be heard. If you’re an introvert and planning to visit, be prepared. But then again, perhaps I’ve just become too accustomed to the  quiet chatter of birds and swaying trees.  At any rate I would swim through that sea of people again and again to relive the pure joy I was privileged to witness in seeing an (almost) five year old’s dream come true before my eyes. The smiles. The quiet giggles and wagging tongue. His wide, bright eyes. I believe he could have spent the entire weekend just sitting in front of the large tank with those whale sharks. I know I could have spent just as long watching him watching them. IMG_6634

With some coaxing we did get to see a few other parts of the aquarium. He was able to go on a ‘behind the seas’ tour (thanks Aunt Jen!!) and watch them feed the whale sharks, while learning many details about the aquarium. Turtle also shares that some of the other highlights include the manta rays, petting a sting ray, touching a sea star and seeing penguins. We spent around 5 hours there and didn’t experience everything there was to offer. We missed the sea lion and dolphin shows (which aren’t exactly our speed, so no regrets there). Turtle tried his hardest to see every. single. animal. But eventually, tired and hungry (no outside food allowed) we said a heartfelt goodbye to the whale sharks and headed back to camp. Campfire snuggles and birthday s’mores rounded out the day.


















Talk on the way back to Alabama turned to the future and Turtle informed us he would be living in Atlanta so he could work with the whale sharks. Princess chimed in that she (along with her police officer husband and baby girl) would move there to be close to Turtle. Turtle was quick to let her know he’d be very busy there (he wouldn’t need a house, or a family, he would just sleep at the aquarium). Princess agreed that she could just take her daughter to visit him there. Talk waned and things were quiet for just a minute when I heard Turtle softly say “I’m going to miss the whale sharks mom.”

I know he is still young and there is a good chance he won’t fully remember this weekend, but my memories of his bliss will never fade.

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