By Dave Andrusko
Editor’s note. We first started our online publication many years ago. We’ve had some tremendous response to posts, but none has ever exceeded—in volume or delight—this from a story that ran in June 2001. Let’s see how well it’s aged.
Certainly he is cute and cuddly. We’ve all grown kind of attached to the little fellow, except for our dog who is without question the most cowardly critter on the face of God’s green earth. It only required the duckling to quack a couple of times and aim a peck in Ginger’s direction for her to be thoroughly intimidated.
Just as certain, there are instructions in New Life 1001 to be learned. For example, who’s going to watch him when Emily’s at school? How you going to feel at 2 in the morning when the “little one” is chirping/crying? And, most of all, you better understand that babies need lots of attention and “parents” must be awfully careful so that nothing untoward happens to their offspring.
Not that you’d know it by the duck’s outward mannerisms. Dependence is not what first comes to your mind. He’s full of confidence, utterly fearless, and already practicing to fly with his non-existent wings.
I know this sounds ultra-hokey but the contrast between our little friend’s cocksureness and the reality of his utter vulnerability just made me even more aware how great is our responsibility to little babies. I’m working on helping my kids grasp that as well.
Tonight when Em tucks her little bundle of responsibility into his cardboard box, he’ll cuddle up to one of the beanie babies whose presence Em has volunteered to keep the duck company. He’ll quack for a while (actually a loooong while), then burrow his tiny beak into the side of his friend and companion. Confident he is not alone, in the blink of an eye, he’ll be fast asleep.
And, of course, while Em is quietly sleeping, her mom and I will periodically check in to make sure everything is okay. Not just with the duck, mind you, but also with the l8-year-old who in less than two months will migrate to college.
While Em will be learning a new lesson, her mom and I are learning an old, old one. One moment they are but a few days old. A blink of the eye later, they are nearly grown women.
You know what? When the duck is through with the rag doll, I think I know someone else it can keep company.
[This ran a couple of days later.]
Update: Many of you responded with wonderful e-mails to my little story about my l8-year-old daughter, Emily, and the little duck she’s supposed to care for. One of the items I mentioned in passing is that the primary lesson they’re to learn is that little ones of any species require lots of care to assure that nothing unfortunate happens to them.
Well…yesterday my daughter had the little fellow in her hand and stumbled going up the stairs. At first, it looked like our little friend had gone to wherever it is good ducklings go.
I was not at home at the time but my wife tells me that Em was an emotional basket case, completely distraught, to the point where she hyperventilated. In a word she went ballistic.
Her 17-year-old brother, upholding the Andrusko tradition of male sensitivity, told her to cool it. When dad gets home, David chimed in, he’ll just go buy you another duck.
That noise you heard–the one that sounded like a sonic boom–that was Em’s response.
But this story does have a happy ending. We didn’t even have to clap our hands to rouse him, as Peter Pan asked everyone to do to save Tinker Bell.
Apparently the duckling was only stunned. (What fooled us was the drooping neck. As he stumbled about he looked like he was trying to look around the corner.)
A few minutes later, the groggy duck, apparently only somewhat the worse for wear, started quacking faintly.
By this morning, he was as good as new. At least he hasn’t quacked otherwise to me.