The night before my wedding my dad asked me if we could have a “talk.” I was 23 by this time and already knew a thing or two about the birds and the bees, so this conversation was a little … well… uncomfortable. As it turned out, Dad’s objective wasn’t to tell me about the facts of life at all, but rather to remind me that having children wasn’t a necessary ingredient for a happy marriage. Truth be told, he was worried that I would die in childbirth. You see, I’m a mere 4’ 10” and my husband is 6’2”, so his concerns weren’t outside the realm of possibility.
My first pregnancy was no picnic, believe me. When I was only three months along people started asking me how many weeks I had left before my due date. Ouch. I was as big as house, constantly nauseated and was just downright mean. Whoever said pregnancy is a wonderful experience must have been living in LaLa land.
Several months before my term was up, my husband, Craig, brought home a surprise from his classroom. One of his students had given him six duck eggs that he’d found abandoned. Craig thought it would be fun to see if we could hatch them. I was thrilled when I first saw those little mallard bills pecking through their shells …certainly much happier than was our Golden Retriever. They thought she was their Mommy.
Because we hadn’t yet decided on a name for our upcoming bundle of joy – and because I was hormonally sappy and sentimental – I thought it was a great idea to give our ducklings the names we had on our list and try them on for size.
Kaia, Annika, Tyler, Thorson, Anders and Logan lived in a laundry basket in our basement until the smell of duck doo-doo became overwhelming. Craig built a sturdy pen in our fenced-in back yard and put a grate over the top to protect them from the elements and predators. The first night I was pretty anxious … I’d grown attached to the little buggers and was worried about them being in the big bad world all alone. Nevertheless, we deposited them in their new home, turned out the lights, and headed off to bed.
Craig got up early the next morning and went outside to check on the little darlings. Instead of hearing friendly chirping, he found a gruesome spectacle. Little bits of duckling were scattered all over the back yard, including right on the doorstep. The evidence pointed to a raccoon; the bandit had reached into the pen through the miniscule slats, picked up the babies one at a time, and then bit off their heads and spit out the less desirable parts. Craig was kind enough to clean up the carnage before I awoke so I wouldn’t see it in my delicate condition. When he told me what happened I was absolutely horrified.
Over the years I’ve learned that life is full of irony. The day of the duck murders proved to be a great illustration of that point. That afternoon when I went out to run some errands, I bumped into my big sister, Julie. As I related my horror story to her in that strip mall parking lot my eyes wandered down to the t-shirt she was wearing. Ironically, it had a large graphic of a DUCK on it. Now, Julie has a tendency to laugh at completely inappropriate times – like at a funeral for example – and when she saw the look on my face, she howled with laughter. I’m telling you, she guffawed and belly-laughed until I thought she was going to wet her pants. I was not amused.
Despite being a seemingly bad omen, we still named our daughter after one of those slain ducks. Kaia is now ready to graduate from high school, and in another one of life’s great ironies, we once again have baby ducklings. For the second time I am a Mama Duck. Man, I’m a glutton for punishment. The first time we introduced our two Great Pyrenees to the little darlings, Drifter thought they were afternoon snacks. It took all I had to hold her back.
But never fear …they are still alive and ready to move into a larger pen. Hopefully this time they’ll live long enough to earn their wings.