by Maria Ruiz
I was playing in the surf on the beach in Santa Barbara. The morning fog had cleared and it was a perfect day. Cool in the shade of the giant eucalyptus trees and warm in the sun. I was glad I had gotten away by myself and not had to drag my sister along. She could be a real pain in the butt when she whined. Today I was free.
Tomorrow I would be thirteen and was dreaming about the gifts I’d get. I knew better than to dream of clothes or expensive things, being the oldest of four, my gifts would have to be passed on next year and there wasn’t money to splurge.
I came out of the surf, pulling at the bottom of my suit where the sand always managed to accumulate, wondering how it got in and stayed so long. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something move. I turned toward it and saw a turtle, maybe 18 inches in length, come slowly toward the stand of trees and me.
I had never seen a turtle come out of the ocean and was intrigued. I laid my towel down and decided to watch the phenomenon unfold.
The turtle reached the drier sand and began to dig with its back flippers. For such a little turtle, it took almost an hour to dig the hole to its satisfaction. Then it squatted over the hole and as I watched in wonder, a tube dropped from between its shells in the back and began to push out small white eggs. They weren’t as big as chicken eggs but were about as big as ping-pong balls.
I figured the turtle was a ‘she’ and sat there watching her work. It was as big a gift as I could ever have imagined.
After dropping about thirty eggs, she began to push the sand over the hole and when finished, she slowly made her way down the beach, into the surf and disappeared into the waves.
That was the most exciting thing I had ever witnessed. I had to share. I grabbed my damp towel, shoved my feet into my shoes and began to run back to my aunt’s house where we were staying.
Upon entering the house, I could hear Mom and my aunt Clara talking in the kitchen. I rushed in. “You’ll never guess what I saw,” I yelled in excitement.
“What?” They both stopped whatever they were doing and looked up at me.
“I saw a turtle laying eggs on the beach.” I was bouncing up and down with my news.
“You did? Where?” Mom asked.
“Right there on the beach. By the trees.”
“Do you think you could show us?” Clara asked.
“Oh sure. Do you want to see them?” I responded.
“Yeah, we sure do,” Mom said.
“Come on. Let’s take the car.” Clara was reaching for her purse and car keys.
I had never seen Mom and Clara so excited about anything I had to say before. It made me happy to share my discovery with them.
We rushed to the car and Clara backed out of the driveway, then turned and headed toward the beach. She parked as close to the stand of trees as she could. Mom was the first out of the car but I pushed ahead and led them to the place where I had watched the wonderful event.
Mom and Clara immediately knelt down by the covered hole and began to dig. I guessed they wanted to see the eggs so I stood and watched them uncover the treasure hole. There they were, the little pile of now sandy eggs. Carefully, Clara picked one up and brushed the sand away. It was pearl white in the bright sun.
Then horror. Laughing like children that had discovered the hidden Christmas gifts, my own mother and aunt gathered all the eggs and put them into a small box.
“What are you doing?” I screamed. “Put them back. They’re her eggs, not yours.”
“Don’t be silly,” Clara said.
“These are the most delicious eggs in the world,” Mom said.
“What are you going to do with them?” I cried.
“We’ll have them for breakfast.” Clara answered.
With their box of stolen life, they walked back to the car. I sat in the back, listening to them giggle in the front. Reaching home, I ran to the bedroom I shared with Mom and my sisters. I threw myself down on the bed and cried. Someone called me to breakfast but I knew I could never eat those eggs. I also knew that I would never again share another discovery with those two wicked women.