Remember that childhood game of duck, duck, goose? For the uninitiated, here’s a quick explanation. A group of kids (the more the better — an entire kindergarten class, for example) sits cross-legged in a circle on the ground. One child walks around the circle, tapping each seated child on the head, saying “duck” each time. Whenever the tapper (aka “It”) chooses, she anoints one child as “Goose” and takes off on a run. Goose gets up and chases It (who now has a good lead on Goose) around the circle, attempting to tag It out before It sits down in Goose’s previous place. Goose takes over the role of It, and the fun continues.
(For some kids, that is. For a neurotic little girl like me, the play was fraught with anxiety. “What if I’m called ‘goose’ and get tangled up trying to stand? What if I trip over my feet running around the circle trying to tag the bigger / faster / not-at-all clumsy person who tapped me? What if the person I tap gets up really fast and manages to tag me out? Why can’t we all just go back inside the classroom and have quiet time?” You get my drift.)
But this spring, “duck, duck, goose” got a whole new meaning. To wit:
One of B. and my favorite places to go each week is Descanso Gardens — a beautiful park here in Los Angeles that is filled right now with the most stunning blooms. Roses, cherry blossoms, tulips, lilacs, camellias, azaleas — it’s really a fantasy land, even by La-La-Land standards.
A trip to the gardens last week brought something new — a mother goose (Mother Goose?) leading five week-old baby geese on a walk (more like a waddle). To say those goslings were adorable is an understatement. Tiny, fuzzy, tripping over their little webbed feet — it was truly one of life’s “aww” moments, and one you just don’t get to see very often living in the city.
Until this week, when those tiny goslings (I just had to name one of them Ryan) were replaced by a family of ducklings. Yup. While hiking through the gardens we came upon a mother and father mallard duck (he brightly colored, she too busy mothering to bother with makeup) taking their six brand-new little ones for one of the ducklings’ first swimming lessons. One baby seemed reluctant to take the plunge (“Just wait until you have to play ‘duck, duck, goose,’ kid,” I thought sympathetically), but with mom’s nudging he got in the water and began to paddle those little feet. Nature at work.
But even those garden sightings were less remarkable than what we encountered a few blocks from home in our city neighborhood. There, waiting at a red light, at a heavily trafficked intersection where freeway entrance ramp meets busy thoroughfare, we saw it.
Me: (shouting suddenly) Duck, duck, goose!
He: That’s cute, honey. I guess I don’t need the hearing in my right ear anymore.
Me: No, really — duck, duck, goose!
He: Yeah, I get it, we just saw baby ducks. What’s with the volume?
Me: Look! (pointing being added to shouting) Duck, duck, goose!
And, there, parading right in front of us in a single row, was a mother duck (or goose) followed by a line of four of her offspring, all marching in single file. In the crosswalk. At the WALK signal. Right across that busy LA street.
And right onto the freeway entrance ramp.
Me: “They’ll get killed on the freeway! Quick! Make a right turn onto the ramp — we’ve got to be sure they don’t get run over!”
He: “What the –?”
Me: “Just do it — please!”
What I thought we could do to protect the procession, I have no idea. But in my moment of “duck, duck, goose” anxiety from when I was a little kid, I knew I had to try something. Before the sweet little feathered family got tagged out by oncoming traffic. Before duck soup became more than a Marx Brothers movie.
Fortunately for everyone, Mama Duck knew what she was doing. She led her little procession onto the freeway shoulder, where they then managed to squeeze through an opening in a chain-link fence and back off again. As for us, we took the next exit and headed back home.
No harm, all fowl.
©2021 Claudia Grossman