Mom Loves Duck
As with many of the world’s the truly great love affairs, I had never planned for this one to happen. But, against all odds, it did.
And despite the fact that it came to a terribly sad end, I have no regrets – only pity for the people who can’t understand how much a stuffed duck, just nine inches tall, can mean to a woman rapidly approaching middle age.
His name was Snatchy. Snatchy McQuackers.
I first laid eyes on him one cool December day in 2000, when Lucy was just four months old. She’d been out with Adam; I had given explicit orders for him not to buy anything.
“For the love of cleanliness! We live in a small apartment with a baby, an old dog and an incontinent cat that literally scares the crap out of our other cat on a daily basis! Go to the store if you must! But do not buy anything! We! Are! Out! Of! Room!”
One would think this sort of instruction is clear.
But for a man who loves his daughter and delights in her newfound ability to snatch things and put them in her mouth, there are no words a wife can utter that will stop him from pulling out his credit card and buying the stuffed animal the baby has drooled on.
“Other people saw her do it,” he said. “We had no choice.”
And so Snatchy came to live with us in our crowded condominium.
Despite my better judgment, I found myself in falling in love with the intelligent sparkle in his beady little eyes. I adored stroking the tuft of white fuzz that poked out of his big yellow head. And I thrilled the way Lucy laughed when Adam made Snatchy dive from dizzying heights and land in a small cup full of pretend shark-infested water. He was one brave duck.
Lucy seemed to love him, too. Snatchy was the closest thing she had to a security blanket, though she never managed to find anything that gave her as much comfort as sticking her hand inside my shirt and tweaking my nipple. Alas.
Snatchy rode with her in the stroller. He slept with her in her crib. He never once complained when she left the crib to sleep with us in our bed, night after night after night. If only I could have been such a stoic duck.
Though many lesser stuffed animals were purged in our eventual move to a real house, Snatchy came with us. He survived the incontinent cat. He survived the other cat, who, before her death, eventually became incontinent. He outlived my beloved dog, who had the good sense not to chew Snatchy’s eyes out or lose bladder control.
Sure, we misplaced Snatchy from time to time. But every time I’d find him in the back of the car, alongside the spare tire, or in the filthy hollow behind the dryer, I’d shout his name.
And I’d look into his beady eyes, and it was as though we were never apart. Although he lost some of his head fluff, as well as all the stitching on his beak, to me, he was the same old Snatchy I’d always loved. Oh, and Lucy seemed glad to have him back, too.
Snatchy was with us when baby Alice was born. And he was with us when we decided to conduct an experiment to determine whether newborns or puppies are a bigger pain in the ass. We brought home a puffy little golden retriever when baby Alice was just six weeks old, and were able to prove that puppies are worse than babies -- if only because human babies do not poop worms on your hardwood floors when you have company over.
I look back on it now and realize that, for Snatchy, the puppy was the beginning of the end. I will never forget the way my heart pounded the first time I saw him in the puppy’s mouth.
“Snatchy!” I yelled, and dove across the floor. I was just in time. Snatchy was fine. I made a solemn promise that I would never let him set another plush orange foot on the floor again. It was just too risky.
But mothers should never make such promises when there are four-year-olds on the scene. To a four-year-old, the floor is a fine place for toys, books, jewelry, quarters, blankets, hairbrushes, grapes, improperly sealed sippy cups, and even ducks that someone loves very, very much.
And this is how, one day, I came to find Snatchy with his beak chewed off. His cottony insides burst out of his face like a cloud. And his eyes, his beautiful eyes, they were gone.
Though I tried to hide him, Lucy, who was home from preschool with a terrible cold, caught sight of him. She turned her face to the sky and yelled, “SNATCHYYYYYYYYYY!” Then she wept more snotty tears than would have filled the cup Snatchy used to dive into, back in the day when he still had a face.
It was bad enough that I’d found Snatchy dead; it was worse to see Lucy’s heart ripped in two, spilling its cottony love all over the living room.
I called Adam at work.
“It’s Snatchy,” I said. “It doesn’t look good.”
Although I know you can never replace true love, I thought I might be able to trick Lucy with an identical replacement.
No luck. The store where Snatchy had come from three years earlier no longer carried him. I searched on eBay. And then finally, I found a duck bearing an uncanny resemblance on a website that sells logo giveaways. Better yet: He was just $3.
So I ordered him. Minutes later, I got a notice that my order had been canceled, because I hadn’t met their minimum order requirements.
I wrote to the company, asking if they could make an exception, just this once. I told the whole tender story of Snatchy, and how he came to live with us, and how much my daughter loved him.
“Sorry,” a woman named Tracy wrote back with astonishing speed. “We only sell in the minimum qtys posted. You will need to find one through a retailer.”
Tracy, who didn’t even care enough to write out quantity in its entirety, recommended I find a retailer who carried the duck.
So I wrote back, asking if she knew of any.
“No sorry I don't,” she replied, not caring enough to use commas. I would just try searching the website or check at your local stores.”
Because there is no such thing as “the website” that carries replacement stuffed animals that have been mauled by puppies, and because I live in a major city with more “local stores” than a mind like Tracy’s could ever imagine, I felt close to giving up.
But then I tried one more search.
And I found a better company than Tracy’s. Better because they were willing to send out free samples of their merchandise, if I only paid the shipping.
And so this is how I came to have a replacement for Snatchy McQuackers. He wasn’t quite the same. Snatchy II’s eyes weren’t as shiny. He had more hair and intact beak stitching. And he leaked small, plastic balls from between his legs until I stitched him up.
Still, Lucy believed a miracle had occurred. She had her Snatchy once again.
It was only when, a few weeks later, Lucy had another meltdown that I realized perhaps her love for Snatchy was not as deep as I had imagined. A coupon for a free ice cream cone that I’d clipped out of a newspaper got wadded up.
“My COUPONNNNNN!” she cried out, tipping her head at the sky just as she’d done the day Snatchy died.
“It’s okay, Lucy,” I reassured her. “We can get another one.”
And at that moment, deep inside, deeper than a whole stack of cups a brave duck could dive into, I knew that another coupon, like another duck, really would make things all right for her.
But it wouldn’t make things all right for me. I’d fallen in love with my daughter’s stuffed duck. For me, though, he was more than just a duck. He was a symbol -- tangible evidence that I knew and could provide what my daughter needed and loved.
After all, isn’t this what all parents want? To understand our children’s hearts, and to keep them safe and full?
It’s an impossible wish. No matter how good our Web searching skills, or how willing we are to abuse the free-sample policies at promotional merchandise catalogs, we will surely fail. Our children’s hearts will break -- over lost ducks, crumpled coupons and love gone wrong. And as we watch helplessly from a distance, ours will break, too.
I never thought that finding my one true love and bringing his daughters into the world would be this hard, would involve this much heartbreak. So much for happily ever after.
And so this is goodbye, Snatchy. I miss you still.