My mother’s name was Judith. In my experience, most Jewish women over 60 are named Judith. Although CJ’s middle name is Judith, too, it’s not a name that a toddler can easily pronounce, so instead of “Grandma Judith,” CJ called her “Gamaju.”
Gamaju sounds like a Japanese movie monster, don’t you think? In fact, for a while I thought Gamaju was the name of this giant turtle.
Which would have been entirely appropriate, because the turtle was my mother’s mascot. She’d always described herself as “pokey” — slow driver, slow to get things done around the house. At some point, I suppose being pokey transitioned from a personality trait to an early sign of Parkinson’s disease. But looking back it’s hard to draw the line.
Being pokey didn’t bother Gamaju, perhaps because she wasn’t particularly ambitious. Unlike me, she never had a long list of goals she wasn’t getting to. What’s your hurry? she would say. It’s not a race.
One day, after leaving a Jenny Craig meeting, where she’d been losing about a pound every two months, she stopped in a shop and thought about the slow but steady progress she was making. And she bought herself a brooch in the shape of a slow but steady turtle.
Over time she accumulated a turtle collection, which I occasionally contributed gifts to, and which I’ve now inherited.
It’s not a particularly large collection — that would have been out of character. Instead, Gamaju pokily accumulated eight turtles, and now there are only six. (CJ broke the little glass one, and I haven’t been able to find the brooch.)
Just look at these guys. Where are they going? What’s their hurry?