It was just a regular Thursday morning…
I go in late on Thursdays. My schedule was changed a couple of years ago to accommodate customers in other time zones. Personally, I felt those customers could have used the same method they use when planning to watch a program on television. For example, if an Alabamian hopes to catch an episode of “House” advertised to air at eight, eastern, she knows to pick out her spot on the couch no later than 6:58. They are used to it. They’ve always done it. My bosses weren’t having it.
Actually, I enjoy the extra time at home in the morning. I get to see my son and we can have a conversation that doesn’t necessarily include grunts. I can water my garden and/or pick flowers to take to the office. I’ve even been known to start a load of laundry. The real advantage, though, is that I can take my son to school.
School ended for most kids almost two weeks ago. But Shane plays football and, in this town, football players are expected to take summer courses in order to free up time in their fall schedule for weight-lifting, film-watching, and any other activity the coach might deem necessary to win the next game. Of course, all of this comes under the heading “PE” so as not to violate any Board of Education mandates. But I digress…
After throwing seed at the chickens and shutting off the sprinkler, I climbed into the driver’s seat beside Shane who always sits in the car for at least ten minutes before anyone else is ready. Two of his teammates waited in a driveway around the corner, soon filling my backseat to capacity, and the shrunken airspace with just a hint of man/boy funk.
The drive to school was short and quiet, as a local DJ hinted at lascivious content after the next commercial break. The backseat boys exchanged nervous glances.
Banter began as we took our place on line in front of the designated drop-off point. As we inched forward, the boys in the back opened their doors while Shane slid in for a good-bye kiss that could be my last. Every one could be my last. I know this; the preciousness of what I have left. I was also acutely aware of the amount of testosterone sliding out of my backseat. I turned my head, offering my cheek.
Summer should mean lighter traffic. For some reason, that hasn’t happened this year. So far, the lights are just as long, the lanes are just as clogged, and drivers in tiny cars with loud mufflers are just as annoying.
My commute takes me through several very large intersections which, when combined, include fourteen lanes of traffic. I glided to a stop at one of them while considering whether or not to listen to a CD rather than my beloved “Fresh Air” on NPR. The topic was electric cars and the batteries that propel them…snore…
And, that’s when I saw the duck.
She was small, smaller than the ducks I visit at our local park, and brown; mottled brown and white that would turn beige in a squint. Five look-a-like ducklings waddled, in military-like precision, behind her.
ACROSS SIX LANES OF MORNING COMMUTE TRAFFIC!!!
One hand grabbed the door handle, while the other found the console.
My mind raced.
How had she managed the first five lanes?
How would she manage the last? The turn-lane to my right always moved with a steady flow of traffic.
I considered getting out, but didn’t want to frighten her. She’d done such a good job, so far…
All I could do was wait; wait and worry, worry and wait, while white-knuckling my car’s interior.
Sweat beaded along my hairline as I eyed the rearview mirror. Nervous, I shifted my eyes to the passenger-side mirror, while wondering what I might do if a car appeared there. “They’d never see her.”, I thought. “She’s so small.”
The driver of the car to my left tapped her horn as though to hurry her along. I bounced in my seat in an effort at moral support.
I watched Mother Duck gain the curb, before checking the mirrors again. “Hurry!!!” (It was a silent scream.) Like molasses, the ducklings flowed over the curb behind her. She poked her billed into the underbrush several times before choosing a path and, in agonizing fashion, they were gone.
In a gush, I exhaled the breath I’d sucked in upon seeing the duck. Tears came to my eyes, and I wondered how she’d known. What force told her it was time? Whose hand held traffic at bay?
Who said there’s no such thing as miracles?