Make Way for Ducklings


Bella turns six on Friday and she requested for her birthday the special treat of going to the Public Garden in Boston to see the Make Way for Duckling statues and the swan boats. We were most happy to oblige.

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At the train station, about to set forth on our grand adventure.

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On the platform, waiting for the train.

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Two eager girls and a baby who is ready for his nap.

Riding the train is an adventure in itself, of course. The children think the subway is the greatest ride ever. And you know, I agree with them. Riding the subway with them makes me feel just as giddy and excited as the first time I rode it. Actually, if I’m honest it just gives me permission to acknowledge that I feel the excitement at the same fever pitch because for me riding the train or subway has always felt like a grand adventure. Even if it’s a route I’ve taken dozens of times, there is still something wonderful about it. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a city that doesn’t have a subway. Anyway, having children definitely makes me feel younger at heart.

Bella was glued to the window.

So was Ben.

We took the Red Line train from Quincy Adams station to Park Street and then strolled across Boston Common, being sure to point out the golden dome of the State House. We stopped and looked at the murky waters of the frog pond and admired the horses and other creatures on the carousel nearby.

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The Frog Pond was not open for wading.

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The weird shape in front of Sophie is the back of one of the frog statues.

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We paused to investigate the bronze frogs. This one had a rod and reel and a big can full of worms. One of the worms was making his escape; but I didn’t get a picture.

Once we’d transversed the Common, we crossed the street and Oh! we were in the Public Garden at last! First we crossed the bridge, looking down at the swan boats and the splashing ducks. Then we went to find the famous statues of the Mallard family.

Entering the Public Garden, with my mom. I&88217;m as giddy as any of the kids.

Our first view of the swan boats from the bridge.

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A weeping beech. It made this beautiful tent-like space, like a gigantic hidden playhouse. We were all enchanted.

I was the first to spy them but soon the children all were racing to climb on the ducks. It seems to be a universal reaction that children wanted to sit on the ducks. We saw a group of school children on field trip. We saw a bunch of families with little ones. My favorite though were the two boys who were older—maybe ten or eleven—who stopped and sat down near Quack, the last duck in the line. The one boy pulled out his phone and with one arm draped around the duck, flipped through the settings for the camera and then handed it to his friend so he could get a photo. Meanwhile the dad stood at a distance urging them to come on. I loved the childishness, the lack of that kind of awkward self-consciousness that too often cripples children that age, making them try to act older than they are. Instead, the boys just enjoyed the moment and delighted in the statues.

My ducklings meet the metal ducklings: Mrs Mallard with Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack.

Ben is the first to the ducks.

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Bella’s skirt completely overwhelms Lack.

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The girls try to fit two people on Mrs Mallard’s back.

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Sophie did not want to get off of Mama Mallard.

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At all.

Look at that smile!

We had a little snack there, banana bread for everyone and Cheerios, string cheese, raisins, and peanut butter tortillas, for those who were still a bit hungry. Then we went back to see about riding on the swan boats. At first it seemed we might be disappointed. The man said they needed about ten adults and there was not yet anyone else waiting to ride the boat. We decided to wait for just a bit but it was almost noon and we needed to go get lunch and the prospects did not look good. Just as we were getting ready to give up and leave a mother with a couple of children came up and then a trio of tourists and the man said it would be enough to run the boat and so we got on, leaving Grandma with the stroller and bags and at the last minute with Anthony too because I began to doubt my ability to keep a grip on the thirty pound toddler if he really wanted to get down and I could tell he was not going to sit quietly on my lap during the ride.

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Waiting for the swan boat ride.

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Boarding the swan boat.

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Just like the ones in the book.

Bella and Sophie and Ben absolutely loved it. It only cost $2.75 for adults and $1.50 for children over 2, so this was a totally affordable experience. And the smooth, gentle ride on the pedal-powered paddle boat made for a very peaceful trip. The most exciting part was seeing a lot of real live ducklings paddling around our boat. And one of them, which had been splashing on the shore as we passed, jumped into the pond and then swam in front of our boat. For a minute it looked like he wasn’t going to make it and we were going to run him over but he put on an amazing burst of super paddle speed and flashed across our bow. I couldn’t help but think of Ping: paddle paddle, paddle paddle.

Sweet Sophie with the beaming smile.

Beautiful Bella on a boat.

Best birthday present ever.

Ben: “Why are we on a boat?” (He did love it; but I love those two year-old questions.

Bella laughing at the duckling.

Sophie never stopped smiling.

After our swan boat ride we headed to Arlington station and then rode the green train to Government Center and then to Faneuil Hall where we got lunch. (No pictures of lunch because we were all tired and hungry and too busy eating.) The kids shared a big bowl of mac-n-cheese. Really good mac-n-cheese. The adults each had a lobster roll and a bowl of chowder. Really, really, really good lobster rolls. Then on to Haymarket and the green line to Park Street and then the red line back home. Ben, Bella, and Anthony all slept on the train; but Sophie didn’t fall asleep until she was in the car.

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Ben was totally overstimulated by the time we were waiting for the red train home. He just covered his ears and hunkered down.

Thirty pounds of Anthony fell asleep in my lap. I was dozing too and hoping I wouldn’t drop him. Bella was sound asleep next to me.

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Ben, sleeping.

Sophie, not asleep.

A very long day; but oh such a grand adventure! It’s not often you get to step into the pages of one of your favorite books. How perfect that even Ben was able to get into it for Make Way for Ducklings has been one of his favorite bedtime books in the last few weeks. Most of all, this was the perfect birthday adventure for my soon to be six Bella-girl!

Photo May 15, 2 37 00 PM (HDR)
Too tired to walk, Bella got a ride on Daddy’s shoulders. This was in the elevator.



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  • Couple thoughts.

    (1) your shadow in the morning striding behind you and in the evening rising to meet you = the sensual act of traveling—specificaslly, and steadily—eastward.

    Under the shadow of the red rock is different for two reasons.  first, it is a place of stillness—not traveling.  Maybe it is supposed to be a sort of blessed rest, or maybe it is supposed to be a sort of apathy, or sluggishness; maybe the speaker can’t tell which.  Second, it is a place where the rock’s shadow obscures your own separate and individual shadow.  So even if you were moving, beneath it, your own shadow would give you no clue.

    (2) Why red?

    (3) “Fear in a handful of dust” *is* a human being.  We are earth that fears.  It isn’t just that we are afraid of the dust and the death that it represents.  We are, in fact, a handful of dust.  One of the things that differentiates us from ordinary dust is that we experience fear.  Now, he could have said, “love in a handful of dust,” or “wisdom in a handful of dust;” I wonder why fear, and not something like that.

    In any case, the speaker seems to me to want to dissuade the listener from purpose, effort, and motion—“striding, rising”—and drag the listener into a shadow, where there is rest, comfort, but also fear and apathy.

  • Oh, well, this is really fun.  I just say to myself, “What would I have to say about this poem if I was an expert at deconstructing poems?” and then I pretend I know what I’m talking about.

    But srsly, analyzing _The Waste Land_ is totally a job for crowdsourcing.  Please don’t stop, this is one of the most fun series of posts you’ve done ever!

  • BTW, I do think the voice is a tempter, and acedia is a good name for the temptation.  I think that Eliot may be hinting that it’s when we stop moving that we have to face our fear of death…

  • bearing,

    1. Great points about the shadow.  And now I’m also saying: Why didn’t I think of that?

    Moving eastward. That’s got to be significant. It’s the direction toward the dawn, symbolically toward Christ. I suppose it would be a hopeful direction to travel. (Do you know John Donne’s poem Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward? I wonder if that’s kind of what Eliot had in mind.)

    If traveling east is moving toward Christ, then perhaps sitting under the rock is to refuse to make the journey? In that case is the voice a tempter?

    2. Red always makes me think of the American Southwest; but I doubt that’s what Eliot had in mind. Perhaps that is it, though, in that red maybe suggests a desert landscape?

    3. “We are earth that fears.  It isn’t just that we are afraid of the dust and the death that it represents.  We are, in fact, a handful of dust.  One of the things that differentiates us from ordinary dust is that we experience fear.”

    Oh I like that!

    Fear is definitely a theme. From the fear of April’s cruelty in the first line, you get the sense of a speaker who is afraid of growth and change, of life and the seasons. Later there will be “fear death by water”.

    Perhaps the shadow of the red rock could also be named “acedia”, which I remember from Kathleen Norris’ book on the subject was sometimes called “the noonday demon”? The spirit of acedia seems to be both too much love of rest and comfort and also fear and apathy.

    I just love your comments. You always make me look at the poem again from a fresh angle.

  • I’m sorry I’m late. Busy, tired, nauseous…. you know.

    Anyway, it is an interesting passage. The first part, biblical imagery aside, made me think of a dysfunctional family – perhaps the human family. I mean, when I think of roots that clutch, I think of ancestry … “planting down roots,” etc. Family, where we come from, clutch us whether we want them to or not and generations continue despite our faults, flaws and “rubbish.” I completely get the desert imagery … again the idea that we come from a desperate, parched history and nothing in nature can offer us relief.

    When I think of a red rock, I think of the SW but if I just think of red, I think of blood. And, interestingly, iron is one of the primary elements that makes rocks red. I looked online and read that over half our body’s iron supply is in our red blood cells. So, it seems to me that, in our desperate, parched existence, the red rock under which we can see something other than the passing of time, the reality of our own mortality or the inevitability of death – we find the crucifixion – we find life.

    I could be completely wrong. As I said previously, I’ve never read the poem before…. but why a red rock, especially if he isn’t writing from the Grand Canyon? Maybe the rock is red or maybe it is covered in something red?

    I hope to get to part 9 soon! smile

  • “When I think of a red rock, I think of the SW…”

    So do I.  I think of the rocks outside Las Vegas where our family had a hiking and climbing vacation a few years ago.

    But I am an American.  Do you think Brits have a different association with red rocks?  Certainly, for them there would be an association with white rocks (cliffs of Dover and all) but do red rocks call anything different to mind?  Or do they think of the American west, too—a place that to them would be literally foreign?

    It may not matter.  Wikipedia tells me that Eliot was born American and lived there to age 25.  Maybe red rocks mean the same to him as to us.

  • Katherine,

    I agree that roots carries the idea of history, family, connections. And the way they can seem to clutch at you, to create connections and ties that we want to shrug off. So much of the problem of modernity that Eliot is diagnosing is that sense of alienation from our own roots, being cut off from history and tradition.

    I’ll have to think more about the idea of the red rock and blood. If the red rock is an image of the crucifixion, that would be interesting since St Paul says that the rock from which Moses called forth water in the desert is a type of Christ. Is that what Eliot is going for here? Especially with the water imagery in the immediately following lines? I’m not altogether convinced that red=blood is strongly supported by the text; but it does lead to an interesting line of speculation, doesn’t it? I’m going to ponder that for a bit.

  • Bearing,

    Yes, Eliot is an American ex-pat, though he is often classified as a British poet because in his later life he so strongly identified himself as a Brit: he considered himself a monarchist in politics and became a member of the Church of England as well as becoming a naturalized British citizen and marrying two different English women (Vivienne when he was young and then Valerie, his secretary, in his later years.)

    Still, born and raised in St Louis, educated at Harvard, with deep family roots in New England,  I think the American landscape has a strong influence on Eliot’s poetic imagination. I know that in The Four Quartets the river that he describes is the Mississippi. And there are snippets of the New England coast. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock always seems to me to have a very American urban setting. There is a lot of London in sections of The Waste Land but it isn’t that far fetched to think that the American landscape doesn’t also inform the poem’s internal geography.

    Speaking of his marriage and of his staying in England, I found this note in the Wikipedia entry, which ties into our discussion about unhappy relationships and disordered love:

    In a private paper written in his sixties, Eliot confessed: “I came to persuade myself that I was in love with Vivienne simply because I wanted to burn my boats and commit myself to staying in England. And she persuaded herself (also under the influence of [Ezra] Pound) that she would save the poet by keeping him in England. To her, the marriage brought no happiness. To me, it brought the state of mind out of which came The Waste Land.”

  • These are my favorite lines of the poem.  I have them memorized.  You did a great job in your explanation.  My only thought is that the speaker of these lines is a different voice of the lines before it.  I don’t think it’s just a tone difference but a different character.  The question is who?  I always envision God’s voice here, the moral core of the poem.