As a child, one of my favorite picture books was Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey.
Really… Okay, am I giving away too much? Probably. That’s the way of the storyteller!
There was something about those illustrations — simple unselfconscious line drawings halfway between representational sketches and cartoons — that captivated me, that compelled me to try and draw ducklings wandering and swimming. And the tidy little tale about a family of country mallards unfortunately (serendipitously?) hatching and growing up in obviously inhospitable urban Boston.
A quirky story with a dark edge and a lighthearted plot.
So yesterday when Lorri and Carmen — lovely local ladies planting lilies behind Rosslyn’s carriage barn — called to me, I came running with my camera. I had to witness the mother mallard and her entourage of well behaved ducklings, Lorri urged. “Come quickly. They’re almost down to the driveway.”
The duck family (absent father) had appeared suddenly in the meadow near them, and were heading toward the house. I set out to intercept them on the driveway to see if I could shoot a short bit of video before they startled and deviated course.
Sure enough, as I walked up the shaded back driveway I saw the parade bound directly toward me. I turned on the camera and waited, wondering how close they would come before getting nervous and retreating. But this beautiful, proud and totally undaunted momma duck walked right up to me with her parade of ten fuzzy ducklings. Then right past and on toward Lake Champlain. I followed and played crossing guard to make sure that all eleven made it across NYS Route 22, and before long they were all paddling away on the still flooded lake!
That matriarch had promised her brood a swim in the lake, and she was going to deliver on that promise come flood, gawking homeowner or speeding pickup trucks. And deliver she did. My rough video footage, “Ducklings on Parade” only hints at the confidence and determination of the momma mallard.
Cute. Darling. Nostalgic. Right? Wrong! Well, at least partly wrong. Sure, I’m human, and these fuzzy peeps did instantly soften the edges of an otherwise rough week. But cute, darling and nostalgic is only part of the equation. What, there’s more? Oh, yes, there’s more. There’s irony!
You see, over the last year or two I’ve gotten excited about the idea of raising ducks. I did some research, found a catalog, ogled the pictures, read the descriptions, circled my favorites and told me wife. Emergency brake! “What? Raise ducklings so the coyotes and foxes can eat them? Are you crazy?”
Needless to say, she’s not too keen on the idea. There’ve been a couple of heated conversations. I’ve demurred but repressed the desire. At least for now.
So my first thought as these eager swimmers paraded off to Lake Champlain was, my ducklings! Funny how things work out…
I hadn’t thought of that book in years and years, thanks so much for the reminder, it’s adorable.
So pleased to hear it, Michele. Thanks for letting me know! The book is especially wonderfully when it reenacts itself in your yard! 😉