The Taj Ma-Turtle?

(with apologies to Shah Jahan and Ustad Isa)

There’s been a major construction project going on at my house these last few weeks. My husband has been slaving away digging, sawing, cursing, hammering, measuring, cursing, drilling – did I mention cursing? – except this time it’s not for me or the kids or even David. It’s all for the turtle. That’s right, Anna’s turtle, “Slash,” a yellow-bellied slider who’s been living in a small tank in Anna’s room for about a year now. He paid his dues in the confines of that tank and is now basking in a 10’ x 10’ pond where he can chase minnows and tadpoles to his heart and belly’s content. There’s even a waterfall if he’s feeling adventurous.

It just so happens that during all the construction I’ve been reading a book by John Shors called Beneath a Marble Sky about the building of the Taj Mahal. (A book I highly recommend by the way.) The parallels to the building of Shah Jahan’s Taj Mahal in India and David’s Turtle Taj Mahal here on Mountain Island Lake were striking. For instance:

• Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal for the love of his late wife, Mumtaz Mahal. David built the Turtle Taj Mahal for the love of his daughter, Anna.

• The building of the Taj Mahal took longer and cost more than expected. Ah…yeah, ditto the Taj Ma-Turtle.
The Taj Mahal is built on the banks of the Yamuna River, the Taj Ma-Turtle is built on the banks of the Catawba River.

• Hundreds of men were killed in the construction of the Taj Mahal. One man nearly killed himself building the Taj Ma-Turtle.

• People came from all over India to gaze apon the Taj Mahal. People from all over our neighborhood have come to see the Taj Ma-Turtle as word spread of its construction.

Though you might find it shocking there are differences between our Taj Ma-Turtle and the real Taj Mahal. For example:

• The Taj Mahal is built of white marble from India, crystal and jade from China, turquoise from Tibet, Lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, sapphire from Sri Lanka and carnelian from Arabia. The Taj Ma-Turtle is constructed of treated wood from Hoke Lumber, vinyl ordered from the Internet, screws, tubes and electrical outlets from Lowe’s and a green plastic Ziploc container scavenged from our kitchen.

• Ustad Isa was the renown architect credited with the design and building of the Taj Mahal. Alas, the Taj Ma-Turtle did not have the budget for an official architect.

• The Taj Mahal is a marvel of architecture and engineering. It is a marvel that the Taj Ma-Turtle has not yet flooded into our basement.

When David finally persuaded me to go along with the building of the turtle pond, I envisioned a little pond not much larger than a puddle surrounded by rocks and plants. I had no idea it was going to turn into a kiddie-pool-sized behemoth and take a month to construct. But, that’s life with my husband, and after 13 years I have learned to just laugh and shake my head, ignore the container of nightcrawlers in my refrigerator and pray that David doesn’t flood the basement or electrocute himself. Really, how can I be mad about the dirt, the money, or the new inappropriate words the kids have learned when Anna is as happy as if her daddy had built her the real Taj Mahal?

Sara Ellington is the author of The Mommy Chronicles: Conversations Sharing the Comedy and Drama of Pregnancy and New Motherhood (Hay House, 2005) and The Must-Have Mom Manual (Ballantine/Random House, April 2009)


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