One wet, humid day the ducks hop-waddled up the curb and into their nest of brush. As the last duck settled in, the peals of thunder began and the droplets started rolling down through the long leaves.

We watched them from our parked car. The rain fell on their beaks and across their feathers. They were safe.

That day was our last with the duckies.

Before that, saw them a few times a week. We always stopped, got out, noticed they were there, and sang songs to them as we walked up the lot to the store. We often wondered aloud if the ducks were still there. They often were. We became attached to them.  Then, one day, they were gone.

We moved soon after, so we never caught their fate.  Every so often we think about them. They were special, not for being ducks, but because they represented a comforting sight in a city that did not cater to us. Sometimes it felt like it was just the two of us there. There wasn't much to do in Charlotte other than visit malls. And the ducks.

Wild animals are a common sight just about anywhere you go, but at that time in our lives, it was nice to see some in the midst of sprawl. It can be humanizing to forge a deliberately temporary connection with another creature, even if that connection is a lie and not based on anything real. Some children do this: they create relationships with creatures they know to be ephemeral and meaningless but for the sake of a game. Children aren't stupid, and this sort of play fortifies their creativity. Unfortunately, this sort of play becomes off limits for many adults, so whatever creativity is fostered for them at a young age goes away once they enter the very serious world. As adults we're taught that games are juvenile, but the fun, imaginative times - either playing with our friends or our kids or our pets or imaginary anthropomorphized ducks - are what bond us to the best times in our lives.

I look back on several years in the South, and although I think of numerous stories and memories from our time there, the ducks are a small, precious memory that I still hold very close. Just for its being so minute and so inconsequential, I hold it close.

For a few weeks every year, we hear some familiar noise outside, down near the pool. Each night, when the sun goes down, the quacking starts up. It's supremely comforting to hear them. We like to pretend that they are the same ducks from the parking lot in Charlotte, and they've followed us West to remind us they're still here.


Popular Posts