Random Thoughts

Our two ducklings and F.D.R.

... accidentally stepped on one of little Pinky's legs, crushing it severely

by Marion Celani Gianino

In early February of 1945 when I was not quite 15 years old, I was walking in Malden Square when I came upon a pet store. It happened to be some weeks before Easter and according to the custom in those days, pet stores featured live chicks and ducklings that were sprayed with different pastel colors. They were so cute that I stopped inside and purchased two ducklings, one colored pink and the other blue.

They were put in a little cardboard box with small holes. I took the bus back home to Melrose and everyone in the family agreed that they were adorable. We named one "Pinky" and the other "Blue Boy".

Although we children loved them, it was Mother who bonded with them the most. We got a big open box for them near the kitchen radiator and they seemed quite content. I cleaned the box regularly by putting newspapers on the bottom of the box and Mother fed them often by giving them mashed food from the table. When the weather got warmer, we put them outside on the back porch that was gated. By now they were growing bigger, and some of their new white feathers began to grow out from the pink and blue coloring.

Mother became even more attached and devoted to them. She watched over them constantly, feeding them table scraps and even left over pasta that they loved! As time went by, we made a big hole in the back yard and inserted a large oval tub with water in order to let them swim. When we thought they had enough, we brought them back to the porch that was no longer gated since they knew it was their home. Whenever they saw Mother, they rushed to her, probably expecting more of her "culinary delights".

It so happened that on one sunny day on April 12, 1945, little Nancy who lived nearby, and was my sister Anita's friend, ran up the steps and onto the porch loudly calling out, "Mrs. Celani, Mrs. Celani!" ----- In her haste, she accidentally stepped on one of little Pinky's legs, crushing it severely. Then all pandemonium broke lose!

Mother quickly picked up the pink duckling, wrapped her in warm towels, put the oven on to keep her warm, but poor little Pinky continued to tremble. Then Mother taped a little flat "fudgsicle" stick to the broken leg to hold it straight. Still, little Pinky trembled and appeared to be in shock. Poor Mother was so concerned and upset. We children were all aghast over the situation.

When the ruckus died down, with Mother cuddling the duckling in her arms, she asked, "Nancy, what was it that you wanted to tell me when you ran in here?" Whereupon, little Nancy replied, "Oh, I only wanted to tell you that President Roosevelt died today." This was our beloved President and we were in the midst of World War II. But our duckling took precedent over our President that day!

Well, days went by and little Pinky never got better and she wouldn't even eat. Poor Mother was so distraught when she announced to us three children that it was of no use and it was best if we put Pinky out of her misery. She suggested that we take the duckling across the street to Ell Pond and drown her! (Ever try to drown a duck?)

So, the next day, being Saturday with no school, we children steeled ourselves for the sad ordeal. While my brother Sonny put on his rubber hip boots, Mother put the little duck in a paper bag that was folded at the top. With Mother leading the way, we children sadly trekked over to the pond, as in a funeral procession, to do the dastardly deed. Taking the bag containing the duck, Sonny waded into the pond for a few feet. Upon Mother's command he threw the bag out as far as he could. But what happened next? The duck got out of the bag and started swimming around in circles with her one good foot. We were horrified! Mother had forgotten that ducks swim! Brother Sonny was told to go back into the water to retrieve the duckling, which he did. So back we all came with the duckling, looking more dejected than ever.

That evening at supper, when Dad came home from work, he saw our long faces and he demanded to know what was so tragic? When we told him, he said, "What? I'll take that bird tomorrow." He did, and nothing more was discussed about our pet, but I suspect he wrung its little neck and disposed of her. But we were comforted by the thoughts that our little Pinky was out of her misery and in duckling heaven.

As for the second duck, he grew big and fat, and turned out to become a handsome drake. He would follow Mother around everywhere outside. If she went in the back yard to do some gardening, or to check her plants, or to sweep the walk, the drake called Blue Boy would be right beside her.

One day she had to take the bus to do an errand. Blue Boy stayed right by her as she waited for the bus. The bus stop was right across the street from our house. When the bus arrived, Mother told Blue Boy that he had to stay behind. She boarded the bus thinking that the drake would go back home. How wrong she was, for when she returned some hours later on the other side of the street, Blue Boy had remained at the original spot all that time. When he spotted her across the street, he quacked and quacked loudly while waddling across the street after her, as if to scold her for leaving him so long!

Next door to us was the office of a high-class dentist, Doctor Trevor, who graduated from Harvard. He had a fancy, ultra-modern stucco building with a lovely brass railing leading up to the entrance. Now, Blue Boy liked to perch himself on this railing as it was up high and just the right size for his webbed feet. From this perch he could survey the world, seeing people and cars going by, as well as children coming and going to school. This suited him fine.

Then, one day Mother got a telephone call from Doctor Trevor. He told Mother that he appreciated her being such a good neighbor, and up until today he didn't mind our drake perching on his railing. However, it seems one of his patients, an elderly lady, was coming to his office for her appointment, climbed the steps and admired the lovely big duck "decorative ornament". That is when Blue Boy turned his head toward her and gave her a loud quack. The poor old woman was so shocked that she nearly fell down the flight of stairs. Dr. Trevor was worried that he would be sued!

That evening, Mother told Dad about our predicament. A few days later, Blue Boy disappeared and we were sad that he "got lost." We hoped he would return soon.

Well, Sunday dinner came and Mother took a "big capon", nicely browned, from her oven. Dad did the carving and gave each of us a portion on our plates. However, we had our suspicions, and no one ate dinner that day except Dad who ate his with gusto!

And so ends the sad saga of our unlucky ducks whose lives ran amuck! But the memories remain.

(Excerpt from "Marion's Memoirs", soon to be published.)
December 2, 2005

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