Picture this, me in the shower, door propped open and a crying baby sitting in a bouncy seat distraught because he’s not in his mother’s arms. Jump ahead several years. Me in the shower, door propped open, a whining puppy, distraught because he’s not in his mother’s arms. Jump ahead several more years. I’m in the shower, door propped open, and a tiny duckling is peeping and peeping for her mother….me!

One day, I was vacuuming our living room and something outside caught my eye. It was Mama Duck laying another egg. She had laid over ten eggs and all them were destroyed within three days by a nocturnal predator. My heart couldn’t take it anymore. I found an incubator on eBay for thirty dollars, took the egg, and our journey began.

In between writing, cleaning, errands and two busy children, I turned a duck egg three to four times a day. I even played classical music for the egg. If I did it while pregnant with my children, why not an egg? The scientist in me wanted to see if eventually the music would have any impact on the duck. Perhaps music would aide in brain development, just like in humans. Perhaps I would hatch a duck with a very high IQ!

When our family went out of town, I found an egg sitter. keep in mind there was still some question as to whether the egg was fertile. Imagine taking an egg out of your refrigerator…. My husband and friends laughed at me. Of course the crazy cat lady would try to hatch a duck egg. If she had more land she’d have her own zoo! (I was named the crazy cat lady for always taking in strays.)

One afternoon while washing my hands, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something in the incubator move. I froze. Was it real? I took the plastic lid off the incubator and began talking to the egg. (Yes, along with classical music, I also talked to the egg.) It moved at the sound of my voice. I couldn’t believe it. There really was something inside. I ran to get my kids and the video camera. Every so often as we spoke, the egg would move. It was exhilarating. I wasn’t spending hours foolishly caring for a dud; I was caring for a life.

We waited and waited and nothing happened for several days. I worried that maybe I had done something wrong and the egg was never going to hatch. I went away to my writing workshop leaving my son in charge. I accepted that while I had cared for this egg for over forty days, it may never hatch. I had tried my best. I really wasn’t an expert on ducks.

When I called to say I was on my way home, my son told me the good news. There was a tiny hole in the egg. She was breaking out. I arrived home that evening and the hole was bigger. I could hear her peeping inside. We named her Billy. My daughter’s high school had just performed the musical Honk, and our friend Josh did a superior job portraying Billy, the adorable duckling. She would be named after him.

I stayed up with Billy and talked to her as she peeped and pecked. It was a long process. She pecked diligently from 9:00 pm. to 2:00am and finally at 2:00 am she hatched! Wow, there she was. I didn’t know what to do. I scooped her up in my arms and talked to her. Exhausted, I placed her in her plastic storage bin nest with water and longed for sleep. I couldn’t leave her alone after all she had just been through. My mind flashed to a sad video I had seen in a psychology class many years ago. It was an experiment with two baby monkeys. They both had a surrogate wire mother, but the experimenters put fur on one of the wire mothers. The baby who had the mother with fur thrived while the other did not. I rummaged in my closet. There sat the boxing gorilla someone had given me one Valentine’s Day. I placed him in her nest. She immediately climbed in the gorilla’s lap for comfort. It worked. She had a friend. I could go to bed.

I’ve spent the past three and a half weeks watching Billy grow. She’s adorable but she is also the messiest animal I have ever cared for. Her cage must be cleaned four times a day and her friend the gorilla gets washed more than her cage. She still sleeps with him. Well, she sleeps on him because if I sit him up, she will climb on his head and jump out of her cage. Her legs are strong and her webbed feet can grip just like a bird. (I was surprised.) I take her outdoors to socialize with the other ducks. She watches them from her spot between my feet.

School is out for the summer and last night Billy slept in my daughter’s room. This morning I asked, “How’s Billy?” She looked at me with tired eyes and said, “She got out of her cage in the middle of the night and pooped about thirty times all over my room AND she’s very loud!” She said this while cutting up tomatoes and spinach for Billy’s breakfast. I laughed. After she scolded me for laughing my daughter said, “I figured out a way to get Billy to eat all her spinach… chop it up very small and mix it in with the tomatoes.” I smiled. That’s motherhood, exhaustion, frustration, and an unexplainable love that will make you clean up poop, give up sleep, put yourself second, and smile like you’ve never smiled.

(Billy will be an only duck. Just as there are too many feral cats without homes and too many ex- racing greyhounds without homes, there are too many ducks with little room for a home.)


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The Picture Book Review

Reviews of Children's Board Books, Picture Books, Activity Books, and Graphic Novels

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