Playing Turtles In Time with my 4-year-old son floods my brain with memories of my childhood. We had the game on the Super Nintendo, then and every time the game started, we would exclaim “Big Apple, 3AM”. Now, when I hear the intro, my mind conjures the smell of pizza and I am taken back to that time in my life.
Mine and my brothers room was filled with turtles. We had the bed sheets and pillowcases, curtains and a thousand turtle toys. We also had a turtle table. If you’re a child of the 80’s, perhaps you did too. It was just a little plastic kids table but the chairs were different colors (one for each turtle) and each place at the table had a sticker, denoting which turtle it was for.
Coincidentally, there were 4 of us. My older brother, my older sister ,my cousin who was 4 months younger than me and myself. I’m sure if the scenario took place in today’s times, we would all agree amicably as to who would sit where. In the 80’s, however, children were allowed to be selfish and stubborn (to each other, at least).
My mom would have no part in “settling” the argument for us. Her only warning was that if we didn’t figure it out and set down, we were “going to be sorry”. None of us wanted to contend with my mother and so we settled it the only way that a group of 80’s kids obsessed with Ninja Turtles armed with ancient weapons knew how: survival of the fittest.
Allow me to interject here by saying that the coveted spot at the table was Raphael’s chair. I’m not sure how this came about but he was all our favorites. That spot usually went to my older brother because he was the biggest (and meanest of us all). Unless, of course, he had leveraged his power earlier in the day; selling the promise of Raphael’s seat for something he wanted like choice of game or by making one of us do something that was reckless.
The next most coveted spot at the table was Michelangelo. That spot usually went to my cousin because he was my brother’s right hand man but a lot of times, it was won by my sister. Looking back, I have to give it to her. She was a lot better than I at breaking the triad between my brother and male cousin. Perhaps it was because she embraced her femininity and I didn’t. I think that the guys resented the fact that I was just as tough and daring as they were.
At any rate, I was small for my age and the “runt of the litter” if you will. This meant that I always got stuck with the seat (and turtle) that nobody else wanted: Donatello. Nobody wanted to be the pacifistic intellectual turtle because he wasn’t “cool” enough.
It’s funny how things click into place in one’s mind after they are grown and gain the privilege of hindsight. When we were kids, we chose a turtle based on who was the toughest and had the coolest weapon. Now when I look at the Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles, my mind quickly does a personality profile of each turtle.
Raphael: The toughest of the turtles, he’s hot-headed and ill-tempered. He builds walls around himself and carries the sai. This is the perfect weapon for him because they’re sharp and pointed like his temper as well as a great defensive weapon. This was, in fact, the perfect turtle for my older brother.
Michelangelo: He’s the clown of the group and is great at lightening any heavy situation with his humor. His weapon is the nunchaku because it suits his showmanship. In short, he’s a ham, a free spirit and a party animal. This was apparently my cousin, even then. Now that we are older, it’s obvious that this is the perfect turtle for his party hard personality.
Leonardo: The “big brother” of the group. He’s the leader but most notably the “nurturer” of the group. The one thing about Leonardo’s personality that I love the most is his ability to put the entire group’s needs over his own. Perhaps this honor is why he was bestowed the most prestigious weapon of all: the katana. My sister and I had a rough time getting along once we got older but now we are both moms and I can look back and clearly see that she was the Leonardo of the group. She was constantly settling squabbles between the boys and cooling them off. She would be the first to compromise what she wanted to do for somebody else and she gave, freely, the feminine quality of nurturing (something that took me a long time to figure out).
That brings us to the turtle that nobody wanted to be. The Turtle that I always “got stuck” with: nerdy, passive Donatello.
Donatello would rather engage in intellectual warfare than do physical battle. Even his weapon, the bo staff, is the least lethal of all the turtle’s weapons. He’s usually found behind the “tech desk” or researching to try and find a less physical way to solve the conflict at hand. I actually don’t see Donatello as a pacifist at all. I understand, now, that he had a real need to solve problems. Intellectually speaking, it’s a lot more boring to just plow through enemies than it is to actually find a way around them. You can ask anybody who has ever RPGed with me, I am definitely a Donatello personality. Now that I’m an adult, I’m proud to embrace this and realize that I was never really “stuck” with Donatello’s seat but I was exactly where I belonged.
I’m amazed at how accurately these alignments and personalities have served each one of us, individually. My brother is a true warrior. He’s given most of his adult life to doing combat in the United States Army. He is opinionated, hot-headed and LOVES to argue.
My cousin is a widower and single dad who always seems to have a smile on his face, despite the things he has gone through in his adult life. He’s a true Cajun who lives up to the unofficial Louisiana state motto: “Laissez les bons temps rouler” (Let the good times roll) and still lights the room with his jokes and laughter.
My sister is among the best wives and mothers that I know. Her nurturing ability, while it makes her sensitive, makes her one of the most caring people in the world. She knows how to compromise and she knows how to take care of the people she loves.
I, on the other hand, am an indie writer with a tendency toward verbal debate, rather than physical conflict. I like to solve problems and probably give advice too often. My prize feature is my intellect and I am continually searching for ways to expand my horizons. I always know where I stand on an issue and I never back down from an intellectual debate. Maybe I’m a nerd…maybe I’m a pacifist…but I’m smart and capable. I’m okay with that.
Which turtle personality are you?