One of my favourite things when interacting with AB’s parents was hearing tales of him growing up. Through these stories, I learnt that this man is the way he is not so much due to the way he was brought up, but really because that’s just his nature - this headstrong character with a will of steel, who, once he determines a goal or target that he sets for himself, will pursue it with unwavering focus until he achieves it.
But this is not a post about his titanium resolve - it’s a much more endearing, simple one about a boy and one of his first pets, a duck. Considering how much the French love eating ducks, you can imagine my surprise hearing about it at first. Now AB had mentioned it in passing, but was pretty scanty on details, so it was such a treat to hear about the adventures they had with this pet from AB’s mum, as she regaled me with how they came about to adopt a duck as a household pet. An amazing narrator, she would often gesture with her hands at the funny parts, pause for dramatic effect to achieve just the right amount of suspense, her eyes sparkling with mirth s she relived those precious memories. Ever so often, she would throw in sound effects to mimick the “conversations” even. I was entranced.
So it all came about when AB and his younger brother were still toddlers, and tagged along for a groceries trip with the mother. At the market, they had chanced upon a stall with ducklings, and the two boys were simply mesmerised by the cute fluffy yellow blobs. “Oh mama, they are so beautiful!” they exclaimed (hearts in their eyes). The kind mother melted and agreed to buy one home for them. And thus they picked out a particularly cute little duckling, packed in a small box and made their way home. Barring a minor mishap there the little terrified duckling attempted a prison break, briefly succeeded but nearly killed itself in the process (it decided to hide under the brake pedal!), they managed to make it home, and there, they started a life together (also earning the repute of “that family with a duck” in the neighbourhood.
As it grew, the duck became fast mates with the two boys. They loved chasing each other around the house, watching tv together on the couch (but only before mealtime so as to keep the couch safe from accidental organic decorations), and every morning, it was a race to the car as the boys had to outrun the duck so they could make the journey to school without the clucking companion. Saturnin (named after an apparently popular French canard explorer children tv series character) was not only known to the children though. It was a really sociable one who lived up to its name. It loved waddling out to the mailbox each morning as the mother went to collect the mail, and listened in as the neighbours chatted on news and gossip - this was a polite duckies, only quacking in acknowledgment when told that the conversation was over and it’s time to go home. It would also go to the bus stop every evening when the bus dropping AB’s dad from work comes by to wait for him and escort him home. To add to the charm, Saturnin is also a believer of good personal hygiene and an active lifestyle, taking daily swims in the canal just behind their home and making sure that his feathers are kept nice and clean at all times.
Unfortunately, this charming family life didn’t last and sometime after two years, tragedy struck. While the boys were in school, AB’s mum received a call from a neighbour whose dog was best pals with Saturnin with bad news - the two pals were play-flighting, and Saturnin being what he is, pecked at the dog. Canine friend decided to return the move, only the bite on the duck’s neck turned out to be a fatal move, and that was the sad end of the well loved Saturnin. AB’s mum didn’t have the heart to break the news to the two boys, and told them that it likely found a girlfriend and flew away to travel the world together. It was only revealed to them not too long ago, the truth to the demise of their beloved pet.
While this was a tale with a sad ending, it was so sweet to hear about their encounters and friendship. At the heart of it, what really struck me was AB’s mum’s tenderness towards the boys - that sensitivity to their feelings and protecting them from learning grief at a young age is quite touching. I had to deal with loss when my grandfather passed away when I was two, so I could understand why she did that. That’s the extent of a mother’s love. :)