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Flesh or Feathers: We're All Mamas Under the Skin

While our side yard has been a veritable
nursery this year, with the caterpillar-cum-butterfly and the dove
nest, our larger neighborhood has caught baby fever as well; for
the past couple of weeks the yard in front of our neighborhood pool
has hosted a duck nest, replete with eggs and an anxious mama.

A few days ago, the eggs hatched, and the neighborhood’s been
a-flutter with kids and parents alike all trying to catch a glimpse
of the two babies. Alas, natural selection prevailed and one of the
babies was eaten by some animal larger than a duck, but so far the
second baby is hale and hearty.

And as of Friday morning, taking a nice swim in our neighborhood

Yes, my mom and the girls and I showed up
Friday morning to find the mama duck sailing magnificently along,
her baby paddling happily behind her. We gave the family wide berth
– no one wants to be on the receiving end of a mama
duck’s ass-whooping – and had a great time sharing the
pool with another species for a while.

I loved watching the mama kick into guardian mode whenever a child
came too near: you could practically see the Secret Service
earpiece dangling down her neck as she rushed the baby into one of
the pool traps. She’d then float in front of the trap,
glaring fiercely around, scanning the area for a threat, until the
child would move back and the mama duck deemed it safe to allow her
baby out of the “safe room”. Then another one would
come near, and it’d start all over again.

But as fun as it was to swim with the ducks, we could see that the
baby was tiring. The mama would jump out of the pool, trying to
lead by example, but the baby just couldn’t hop that high.
Someone had the enterprising idea of putting a lounge chair upside
down along the shallow end steps to act as a sort of handicapped
ramp for the baby, and the mama finally figured out it was her best

A couple of times the family made a break for it, daring to swim to
the shallow end where all the kids were playing, only to turn
around because of over-population. All the human mamas kept our
young to the other side of the pool, and finally Mama Duck trusted
us enough to step on out by the chaise lounge.

The entire pool watched anxiously as the baby duck paddled
uncertainly around the lounge chair, starting up it like a boat
ramp a few times, only to be puzzled by the nylon webbing. A few
human mamas started hovering anxiously as well – including my
own mom. Over and over the baby tried, until, while a couple other
moms acted as bouncers holding the toddler crowd back, my mom came
up behind the baby and gently half-lifted half-water-surfed the
baby out. As the baby touched dry land, the entire pool erupted
into cheers, with all the moms around high-fiving each other at a
baby rescue well-done.

And I swear that as the mama duck waddled off with her baby safely
behind her, she raised a wing in solidarity as well.


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