Tuesday, May 17, 2016


I had been carrying around a card in my purse to mail to a friend. For almost two weeks I always had it with me, but I just couldn’t get around to buying a stamp. Something was always sidetracking me from the simple task of stopping at mail depot in the drugstore by my house on my way home from work. Just a few steps over from my usual route going home through the center after work and badda-bing, badda-bang, I could get the stamp, mail the card, and all would be right in the world.

But in my busy life – teens to referee, houses to clean, meals to organize, general chores to do all while working outside the home – I kept getting blown-off course and forgetting my important errand during my rush and daily grind.

And then one day it happened. I had time – I was of sound mind and disposition from my usual busy panic – and I remembered to get that stamp. So after the bus dropped me off at the shopping center near my home after work on a Friday afternoon, I made my way to the drugstore. Just as I was almost there, I happened to glance back and noticed firefighters standing in front of the grocery store collecting donations for a charity. I felt guilty passing them by, but I was well across the parking lot before I noticed them. I vowed to donate next time I was by.

I picked my way through the parking lot of the shopping center, keen to stay away from the sidewalks that would lend to window-shopping and distractions. Sure it was a bit risky that busy Friday afternoon making my way through the chaotic parking lot, but I was determined and focused. I had one thing on my mind – get across the lot to the drugstore, get that stamp, and FINALLY mail that card.

The mail depot at the back of the store was busy, so I bought a stamp from the front cashier. Proud of myself for FINALLY getting the stamp, I went outside through the automatic doors of the store, eager to get to the mailbox just outside. My head was down as I busily shoved my wallet in my purse with one hand and gripped the stamped card in my other. I was determined, focused and pleased with myself for finally have carried out such a simple task!
Just as I stepped through the doors into the hot afternoon sun, I heard a man’s voice cooing gently just outside the doors: “There you go....watch it now, careful....there you go....”

Before I could wonder if someone was kindly cheering me on in this great postal feat, I looked up to find one of the firefighters from the grocery store guiding a mother Mallard duck and her babies across the parking lot. The firefighter, along with another shopper, held back traffic to protect the young family as they made their way towards the sidewalk.

Just as Mom and babies climbed their way up and over the curb of the sidewalk, everyone (the babies, not the growing crowd of onlookers) decided they had had enough. Too pooped to go on they suddenly all huddled together and as one downy, fluffy mass plunked down for a rest. I couldn’t blame them: heck, I was tired from walking all the way across the parking lot, myself!

After patiently waiting a beat or two their mother gave a loud QUACK and up they rose in one fluffy mass. For a second Mom seemed to ponder which way to go and the firefighter and I looked at each other in question. Going one way up the sidewalk would only lead them further into the shopping center, while going the other way would take them out of the center and in the direction of the pond. They had a long way to go, still, to get to the pond, but all we could do was our best as crossing guards and ensure their safety across the nearby busy street. So I followed along shepherding them in the right direction, while the crowd of duck-enthusiasts oohed and aahed and snapped photos, parading behind the little waddling duck parade.
‘Stay away from the drain!’ I exclaimed as they each hop/stumbled off the sidewalk just beside a storm drain and onto the road. We blocked traffic once again, steered them away from another storm drain, and then watched with relief as they hopped up and over the opposite sidewalk and then made their way under a fence through someone’s back yard.

Where did they come from? It’s a quite a big parking lot, the nearest ducky pond is too far away for the seemingly freshly hatched babies to have travelled all the way up to the shopping center. And why were they choosing that moment to pick their way across the parking lot? Why then? Why there? They didn’t belong in the parking lot! Had they got sidetracked? Had mother and father not quite made it to the pond in time to nest their little eggs? Had they been too busy window shopping to do their chores and failed to ready their home in time for their little brood?

They had gotten sidetracked, somehow, but Mom was focused and determined to get them all back on track, even if it meant making their way through a chaotic parking lot.

But wait! Who was I to talk of getting sidetracked and not stay focused?

Because as I made my way home relishing in seeing a fellow busy mom hustling about her day – even if it was a duck – I realized I still had the card in my hand. I had forgotten all about it and never mailed it. Sidetracked, AGAIN! I had a lot to learn from that mother duck about staying focused and getting back on track.

I never knew if they found their way to the pond. As I made my way to my own home I kept watch for the sidetracked little family and listened for the juvenile ‘quacks’ and chirps of the little babies accompanied by the occasional instructional QUACK! QUACK! from their mother hurrying them along.

So despite me failing in my mission and NOT mailing the card, I had been part of something good. I helped to get someone else to get back on track.

And it was Friday the 13th, at that. Go figure.

(And yes, I did eventually go back to the shopping center later that night and mail the card AND donate to the firefighter’s charity)

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