Golden Lucy's Spiral Journal

Going on 87...Savoring and Surviving the Senior Years

Saturday, June 24, 2006

In the Duckhouse


Yesterday I took my usual Friday jaunt for a book fix. As I turned on the busy street in front of the library I thought I was seeing things. Two fat white ducks were waddling officiously across the road, oblivious or at least unconcerned about the resulting traffic snarl. Joining the chorus of surrounding drivers I laughed right out loud.

It was at that moment I recalled the joy my son and his father had shared with our two pet ducks---and the ensuing heartache. My first blog incorporated a brief account of the duck story but didn't convey the complexity of the situation. I'd like to write about it now.

My husband Ben was brilliant, sensitive and emotionally crippled. His precarious and violent childhood with his mother in Russia was followed by rejection and ridicule by his father when the family was finally reunited in America after WWI. As I pointed out in an earlier post, Ben and I were brought together by propinquity and resignation. We were at the same place at the same time. I was fat. He was shy. We were lonely. It was a slow day. So we got married.

The early years after our son Jack was born were the best of our marriage. We were both happy to focus on our precious little boy. Although he seldom spoke to either of us, Ben did everything he could to give Jack the happiest childhood possible. When Jack was about three years old Ben brought home two ducks. Ben loved animals but had never been allowed to have a pet. He was determined Jack would.

Ben set about building a home for the two birds constructing a detailed and darling duckhouse complete with chimney, shutters and decorative paint job. He let Jack "help" with the entire project. I remember watching them out in the yard together; Ben uncharacteristically talking to Jack---explaining and even laughing. In the weeks that followed our little family shared many hours watching our ducks enjoy their fine new home. Ben was so happy he had provided something so wonderful for his son.

But it didn't last. One afternoon our bored and nosey neighbor showed up and announced she had called the Health Department to report a sanitation violation. Our ducks were barnyard poultry--nasty, dirty and unwelcome in our "refined" neighborhood. They would have to go.

We lived with my precious mother-in-law Sarah. She tried to make the best of things by suggesting she would take them to the kosher butcher to be shechted. At least the family could enjoy a tasty dinner of roast duck. After years of starvation in the Pale, Sarah simply couldn't imagine not using the meat. That was just common sense. But I'll bet you can guess the end of the story.

Sarah returned duckless from the butcher. Tears were streaming down her face as she explained her reasoning: how could we eat those ducks? We weren't starving and as she exclaimed in her thick Yiddish accent, " They didn't do anything, those ducks!"

It was very traumatic for me then but it is genuinely heartbreaking to remember now. In the end it wasn't about the ducks. It was about Sarah who had suffered so even though she and her child also "hadn't done anything." It was about a father who felt powerless to provide for and protect his family. And it was about a confused little boy who didn't stop visiting the deserted duckhouse until they took it away.

33 Comments:

  • At 3:44 PM, Blogger Bev Sykes said…

    Lucy, your story brought tears to my eyes.

     
  • At 4:41 PM, Anonymous HeresLucy said…

    I'm just speechless - your story just touched my soul.

     
  • At 5:38 PM, Blogger bunnygirl said…

    What a sad story, and an awful neighbor to complain about the ducks!

     
  • At 7:56 PM, Blogger Miss Cellania said…

    This made me tear up. I hope Jack was OK after all was said and done. I feel for Sarah most of all.

     
  • At 8:59 PM, Blogger kenju said…

    Oh, Lucy, how sad for you and your boy. I hope the effects were not long-lasting.

     
  • At 12:22 AM, Blogger OldOldLady Of The Hills said…

    Very Very Sad, Lucy...
    These are the things that illustrate the word "dysdunction" yo a Tee...and how these things are passed pn from one generation to another...Oy Gevalt!

     
  • At 8:08 AM, Anonymous notdotdot said…

    My father used to say, "Life is made of frustration amd disappointment in the main".
    I'd like to add that it's how we react to those frustrations and disappointments that makes us what we are. You are a fine person and the true story can't but help others to grow if they want to learn.

     
  • At 8:20 AM, Anonymous Simply Coll said…

    Oh my goodness.. this is so sad.. but at the same time shows the strength of the human spirit. My heart goes out to you all.

     
  • At 12:13 PM, Anonymous naomi dagen bloom said…

    lucy, kudos to you for writing this painful story with such sensitivity to everyone involved. i loved it and will share it with an 80 year old woman i just met at a writers' conference; she has a sensibility much like yours. -naomi

     
  • At 1:16 PM, Blogger GUYK said…

    It is sad. I had the prblem with my kids one time when I raised a bunch of frying chickens. They had the chore of feeding them every day and damned if I don't believe they recognized every one of them and gave them names. When it came time to fry some yardbirds I caught hell from sweetthing and three kids--the very idea of cutting off Fred's head! So all the chickens went to the market--where I promptly butchered them and brought them back home in freezer bags. But I never told the kids they were eating Fred and Robert, and Minnie, and all the rest of their pets.

     
  • At 3:33 PM, Anonymous Maria said…

    Lucy,
    Life has a way of giving us those times we don't deserve. The times we are not in control and have done nothing to deserve the heartbreak. How long it takes for us to realize we are not the problem and that even though we are left scarred and spiritually limping, we are survivors and often, joyous survivors!

    Sharing your story is a tribute to the strength of the human spirit. I am so glad that you did and Lucy, this is one that goes into my favorite stories of strength and forgiveness.

     
  • At 4:59 PM, Anonymous Janice said…

    Oh, Lucy -- how sad for all of you. What a wicked neighbor...

     
  • At 8:08 PM, Blogger Mildred Garfield said…

    What a sad story......You told it so beautifully--I could just see it all happening and feel for everyone involved.

    Hard to imagine that you were FAT at one time -- you look pretty slim now.

    Glad I stopped by

     
  • At 8:25 PM, Blogger Chancy said…

    A beautiful rememberance Lucy. Thanks

     
  • At 9:57 PM, Blogger Endment said…

    What a poignant and sensitive tale. You take us along word by word until each emotion seems so very real and present! Pain such as this is like a stone in a pond, the ripples continue on and on and on. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself and your family in this story.

     
  • At 10:31 PM, Blogger Jamie Dawn said…

    This story really runs the gamit of emotions.
    I'm glad Ben did such a wonderful thing for Jack. It makes me sad that Ben wasn't more open and talkative with you. Men, in general, aren't very talkative, so after all Ben went through as a child, I can see why he was so repressed.
    I wish that snooty neighbor would have let the duck infraction go. What a ninny!!
    My kids had ducks once. Courtney accidentally drowed hers, so Granny went back and got another to replace it. Courtney never knew the difference.

     
  • At 2:27 AM, Anonymous Claude said…

    With friendly neighbours like yours, you sure didn't need enemies!
    Thanks for sharing this story which brought tears to my eyes.
    You really have a knack for writing, Lucy

     
  • At 8:56 AM, Anonymous Terri said…

    What a touching and emotional story, Lucy. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.
    Sarah was beyond a special person....one of those souls that everyone should have in their life. And the repercussions that followed from Ben's own fractured childhood are very tragic. Childhood baggage always carries ripples with it. Sad.

     
  • At 1:01 PM, Blogger JunieRose2005 said…

    A very touching story, Lucy.

    Thanks for sharing it.

    Junie

     
  • At 4:39 PM, Blogger Rain said…

    That is incredibly sad and unfortunately when it comes to livestock type animals all too common for how the story ends. Your mother-in-law sounded wonderful

     
  • At 1:41 PM, Blogger Jamie Dawn said…

    Old Old Lady said that all the shrimp are mine!
    I also found the hidden chocolate truffles and ate them all.

    Quack, quack, quack. That means "Hello. Have a nice day, " in Duckese.

     
  • At 3:25 PM, Blogger JunieRose2005 said…

    Speaking of sad farm stories you should read my story of
    ' Jake' - on my Farm Stories of the Past! This is a series of stories of my husband's life growing up on an Alabama farm in the 30s-40s.

    Junie

     
  • At 4:56 PM, Blogger Mike ( ex scientia, veritas ) said…

    That's quite a story Lucyd! Quite a story ....

    And I'm thinking JD is a quack-pot! 'must have OD'd on the chocolate truffles.

     
  • At 8:45 AM, Anonymous momma said…

    Yes every 'nice neighborhood' has a busybody born to break a child's heart or frustrate an adult's attempt to show love for his/her child. How wonderful it would be if people would keep their nose in their own yard when the activity next door doesn't infringe on their property.
    Thank you for sharing Lucy.

     
  • At 12:48 PM, Blogger OldOldLady Of The Hills said…

    Thanks for coming to my Party Lucy! It was such fun!!! Hangovers and all....You must forgive Jamie...and think of it this way...from her mouth to her hiops, and not yours or mine! (lol)...
    I second your wish, my dear Lucy...Many Many More Birthdays, Indeed!
    I love that you Danced The Night Away with Blair...That's the fun of these party's, isn't it?

    Off to give my tummy a much needed rest...!

     
  • At 12:58 PM, Blogger Mike ( ex scientia, veritas ) said…

    Stoppin' by again to wish you a great 4th of July, Lucy. Say, would you like to go find some 4th of July adventure with Sam C. and me??? Have a good one. :)

     
  • At 1:44 PM, Blogger OldOldLady Of The Hills said…

    Thanks for your visit, dear Lucy...I want to pass on this Blog to you:
    http://dannymiller.typepad.com/blog

    Danny is the one that got me started blogging...Well, Danny and his wife Kendall...He is a part of the Tribe, and often writes about his Jewish Heritage and other related things...I think you might enjoy his site...He very often reviews movies and plays...They live right here in L.A. And in fact I will see them tomorrow, Here on The Hill....for the Final Lap of My Birthday Week! (LOL)
    One of my very favorite posts that Danny wrote is about The Wixard Of Oz...I believe it was sometime in late October or November....Worth searching his archives for this one, dear Lucy. It is BRILLIANT! I won't say any more except to say, it made me laugh and made me dry, too...ENJOY, dear Lucy.
    Hope your long weekend is a good one, my dear.

     
  • At 9:23 PM, Anonymous joared said…

    Lucy, you wrote this with such sensitivity, understanding, for each of your family members, that I could not help but cry all through this story.

    Your choice of words was exquisite. I could not help but wonder, at the time these events occurred, did you have all this insight as to the relationships, impact of historical events, family dynamics, or has this come in retrospect?

     
  • At 1:38 PM, Blogger Jamie Dawn said…

    Enjoy your holiday!
    Light some sparklers, but don't burn your fingers.
    And, for goodness sake, don't catch your hair on fire!!

     
  • At 11:46 PM, Anonymous claude said…

    happy fourth of July, Lucy!

     
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