• Jason Laurenzano

"Mommy, look! There's a Tawtul!"

Updated: May 6

On a sunny, pleasant afternoon two years ago while doing some weeding in our front succulents garden I perched a realistic-looking toy turtle atop a boulder. I had done it spontaneously to humor myself. I had no idea that it would evolve into a very pleasant “thing”. Before long I was no longer humoring only myself.


A day or two later from inside our home I heard the voice of a small child beckoning his mother. “Mommy, look! There’s a tawtul!” I looked out the window in time to see the mother and her son pointing and smiling at the boulder’s occupant. I smiled, feeling a warm happy glow. It reminded me of the precious moments with my own children many years ago.





Before long I created a turtle family. A mommy, daddy and baby turtle share the home boulder.

They seem to be having some family turtle time while basking in the sun.


Word spread through the toy wild kingdom. Families and groups of various species began migrating. On another garden rock a mother sow nurses her piglets.


A daddy panda bear and his cub look out from branches of the manzanita tree not far from where the silverback gorilla and the orangutan nervously eye a dragon perched on another branch. Scouting the kingdom from the rear is a family of three meerkats, straight out of Meerkat Manor.





Below them a group of horses graze, a unicorn having been welcomed into the group.


Across the way, closer to the sidewalk, a grouping of bears forage. It matters not one bit that one of them is a polar bear. If only humans could be so welcoming of “the other”!


Towards the back on yet another rock a drama unfolds. A tyrannosaurus rex is attacking a family of giraffes. A baby giraffe is in the mouth of the dinosaur while the rest of the giraffe family looks on in horror. To the rescue comes a triceratops. He distracts the T. Rex and the baby giraffe escapes.


“Daddy, look! There’s a daddy snake and baby snake on that rock!”


Mommy says “Eye spy with my little eye, something that is orange with stripes”. “I see it, mommy, it’s Tigger!”



To our delight we discover that passersby have added to our kingdom: A kitty cat made from river rock, a green bathtub frog, a menacing black rat with red eyes and bright white fangs.


As of last week a bunny rabbit and a raccoon can be seen among the shrubbery. As the weeks past more animals happily arrive.



Our front yard wonderland has become quite popular particularly during the Covid shutdowns. Many families and their small children visit regularly. That gets me out into the garden to move the animals from place to place. We love watching the humans interact with their small children from a window. Other times we join them in a round of “Eye spy”.


The pandemic has been so very hard on all of us in one way or another. But it has also brought family households together. Prior to March, 2020 not many working dads or moms could be seen walking with the wee ones during the week. Now they do, happily experiencing our neighborhood together.


We are happy to have become a source of family fun.







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