Unless you’ve visited Europe or the Middle East, you’ve probably never seen a turtle dove. Until today, the extent of my turtle dove knowledge was the fact that they come in twos at Christmas (22 total if you sing the entire song and add them up), and that they’re mentioned in that naughty book, The Song of Solomon. Today I’ve learned:
- The striking coloration of the turtle dove includes a “vinaceous breast.”
- “Vinaceous” means “having the color of red wine.” (Thank you, Google.)
- Turtle refers to the “turr, turr” sound that the bird makes and has nothing to do with the reptile.
- Turtle doves do indeed form strong pair bonds.
Which brings us to the story of T and S. I’m calling them T and S because those really are their initials, and their first names are so distinctive as to be identifiers. T and S were a couple long before I met them. T was planning to major in business or political science or some such, and S was interested in the humanities, especially theater arts. They were, to put it mildly, adorable. T was eerily like my older son in appearance and manner. S, with her big brown puppy-dog eyes and auburn hair, could have been lifted from the cast of Brigadoon. T had, for reasons unknown, always wanted to take anatomy and physiology. S harbored no such desire, but signed up because of devotion to T. They came to class together and studied together, with T assuming the role of tutor to the bewildered S.
Student groups are funny things, subject to unpredictable and surprising patterns. The obvious devotion and affection between T and S could have been so treacly as to subject them to ridicule by other class members. But they were sweetly unassuming, never openly sharing more than a knowing smile or a word of reassurance, and the entire class adopted them as mascots. On the rare occasions when T or S missed class or was late, everyone in the class was concerned. T and S made frequent and welcome visits to my office.
At the end of the first semester, T, who had developed a real love for A&P, begged S to sign up for the second semester. S agreed to do so if she could pull a “B” to avoid wrecking her GPA. With T coaxing and dragging her along, she made it. By the end of the second semester, T had decided to become a high school biology teacher. S had decided that she definitely was not a science person. As Brian Coatney recently wrote, their train left my station, and I’m not sure where they are now.
Here’s what I do know. T and S took great pleasure from belonging to a group, albeit a wee group of two. Because they shared that pleasure in such an open and warm way, they helped 18 other strangers become part of a group as well. By modeling helpfulness, caring, and gentle humor, they helped their classmates to enjoy learning. Let’s hear it for those turtle doves.
Check back Monday for some thoughts on the French hens.
- On the second day of Christmas… any turtle doves are likely to be miles away (yorkshirepost.co.uk)
- Farmers urged to save the turtle dove as bug chokes the symbol of true love (thetimes.co.uk)
- Two Turtle Doves (astoldbyallyson.wordpress.com)