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Make way for the Claremont ducklings

by Jan Wheatcroft

I closed my front door on my way to walk to the bank down Yale Avenue at Harrison and, as I came to the corner near my house, I noticed movement in the ivy growing up around the sidewalk tree. 

Out popped a fuzzy head that jumped down into the street, followed by nine fuzzier balls of feathery fluff tumbling after as fast as they could. There they were—a small brown and yellow duck and her babies. I turned and rushed back up the steps to my front door with my key in hand. Of course I had left my phone behind, but I longed to get a photo of this family before they moved on. 

I managed to get the key into the lock, dash in, grab the phone, rush out, lock the door and press the camera all in a single movement (or so it seemed). They were now crossing the street in a neat and compact grouping. I ran after them snapping away and then a car came and wanted to turn down Yale Avenue, practically on top of the ducks. “Stop!’’ I shouted, putting up my hands as if to physically keep that car back and protect my brood. 

The car stopped and a blond head emerged from the window. When the woman saw the ducks in front of her car, she too began snapping pictures of my new neighbors. Then another car pulled up, also unable to pass, and I kept running up and back waving cars off, holding my hands up, palms out, policeman style. The ducks were getting nervous and Mama was trying to get out of the street. She waddled over to the curb and tried to climb up, which she finally managed to do, as did one of the nine babies who followed close behind her. But the others weren’t able to scale that mountainous curb. “Go to the corner,” I shouted to my duck friend. “It is easy to climb up there.” She was obviously not listening or not understanding me, and she ran back and forth by the curb trying to climb up as her babies ran after her. 

Soon there were four or five cars stopped as well as a few people who had crossed over to see what was happening. This only seemed to make Mama Duck more nervous and she began to dash back and forth across the street and then up and down the street with those loyal babies right behind her. It was just like being in the picture book, Make Way For Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey, which I read to my children when they were little.

Mama would run to a curb and clamber up by herself and the children would rush to follow her, bumping against the curb and unable to follow. Finally, she hopped down, gathered her children and rushed across Yale Avenue to the corner and up the curb to the sidewalk. The last thing I saw was her tail moving from side to side with those nine little fluff balls close behind as they traveled east on the Harrison?Avenue sidewalk. 

I had snapped as many photos as I could. I had acted like a traffic warden. I had been surprised when these ducks popped up one-by-one out of the ivy above the sewer. I had also been transported back to my young motherhood days remembering the book I had so enjoyed and, now, I was having my own “duck experience.”

I have no idea where they went and I wonder if they are okay. Even with coyotes, raccoons, opossums, dogs and cats, I hope Claremont is a safe place for them.

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