“Ducky Madness and the Diaper Bag,” WRITERS READ, NYC, July 17, 2016

“Ducky Madness and the Diaper Bag,” WRITERS READ, NYC, July 17, 2016

Feeling great up at the podium, getting ready to read my essay “Ducky Madness and the Diaper Bag” at Writers Read, a literary salon, in NYC this past weekend.  The essays were all themed around “The Great Outdoors” and it was a pleasure and an honor to read with such a gifted group of writers. Each of the essays was less than 650 words (mine rang in at 648!) and here it is, for your reading pleasure!

Ducky Madness and the Diaper Bag

           I’m not sure why attending a conference for shrinks called “Creativity and Madness” seemed like a good idea, but I was hormonal, having recently produced a quintessential baby boy, and it was August, it was Aspen, and work was paying for it. The altitude was high, both in proximity to the clouds and in the pretentious vibe of the mind-numbingly boring conference. I suspect I just wanted a vacation, no, I’m certain of it, given that after the grossly unoriginal discussion of poor Emily Dickinson’s psyche on morning one, I didn’t attend a single session.

I was traveling with my then-husband and my toddling true love, Evan. Aspen in August is glorious; the air is all blue shimmer, it smells like pine heaven, and everyone there is very chi-chi, very granola, or, in some cases, both.

Colorado is perhaps a bit too rustic for this Manhattan-born cliff dweller, but Evan had fallen in love with ponies, and there was a family dude ranch near the conference I was not attending, so we set off for a baby cowboy adventure. My husband and I were almost happy. Evan was saddled up on a giant pony, his baby-face split grin-wide. I was both photographer and pack horse, hauling diaper bag, pocketbook, and the detritus that hangs off mothers of young children—sticky juice boxes that attract an inordinate number of stinging bugs, bug spray to combat same, sunscreen, and the sun hat that babies inevitably refuse to wear. It didn’t seem fair that my husband got to lead the pony around with Evan “riding” solo. I grew tired of being the nanny, so when I spotted a duck pond nearby, I suggested we head in that direction so Evan could feed the ducks.

I don’t know what I was thinking, because I don’t like ducks, and I’m phobic about birds and living poultry in general. Maybe it was the thinness of the air, or my baby’s delight in seeing a multitude of ducky’s quacking about, their disgusting webbed feet notwithstanding, that compelled me. Evan was in my arms, his dad had charge of the pony’s reins, and I still had the diaper bag slung over my shoulder, a column of Saltines at the ready to fling at the ducks. At first, it seemed manageable. Evan was hurling Saltines, watching the ducks race-waddle each other for fallen crackers, then engaging in mortal cracker combat. The ducks were too close, too many, and way too aggressive for my comfort, and more were approaching. Enough. I turned, picking my way through slippery duck shit, sublimely unaware that the open Saltine package was sticking out of the diaper bag, leaving a Hansel and Gretel Saltine trail and inviting more and more quackers to feast on crackers. Their numbers were increasing, and they were gaining on me. The faster I walked, the faster they followed. Terror. Within seconds I was running at top speed with a thousand ducks following close behind. Evan was shrieking with glee, I was shrieking in terror, and who knew ducks could even run? Trust me, they can.

I was frantically tear-assing it to the relative safety of my spouse and the giant pony, when a panicked glance over my shoulder revealed that the ducks had abruptly fallen back. Demented, I gasped out my definite sense that the swarming ducks had evil intentions. I was beyond demented when husband passé said mildly, “No, the crackers were falling out of the diaper bag with every step you took. The running was definitely not a good idea.”   Evan was chanting, “Love ducky’s, more crackers?” I was hyperventilating and emotionally horsewhipped.

Ducky madness and traumatic memories remain intact, husband passé is obsolete, and I haven’t eaten a Saltine, at any altitude, since.


About Allison B Friedman

Allison B. Friedman, known to her friends as Allie, submitted her first manuscript to Doubleday when she was five years old. Sadly, it was rejected, but she did receive a personal note from an editor encouraging her to keep writing—so she did. Writing, like breathing, is essential for Allie, who has joyfully produced award-winning short fiction, prose poetry, years and years of newspaper and magazine columns, and original content for a weekly radio show called “The Therapy Sisters.” Allie’s work has been featured in a number of small literary presses, including the literary journal Beanskeeper, and she was a winner of the Poughkeepsie Journal’s “Tailspinners” short story contest. An active member of the Wallkill Valley Writers community, Allie has published her work in the group’s anthology. Her short story, “Sahara Affair,” was born in the Wallkill Valley Writers Workshop, and was published in 2013’s award-winning anthology, “Slant of Light: Contemporary Women Writers of the Hudson Valley.” A practicing psychotherapist, Allie wrote a newspaper column, oxymoronically entitled “Understanding Adolescence” and a monthly column about wellness in “Living and Being” magazine for a number of years. The voyeuristic observation of the intricacies of the human experience is endlessly fascinating to her. She has been a frequent contributor to a number of professional websites, including the Parent Resource Network, where Allie served as a staff writer and was on-call for the website’s “Ask the Expert” feature. Allie was honored to deliver a keynote address at the annual conference of the National Association of Social Workers on the subject of utilizing creativity in social work practice. Allie’s love of writing led to the creation of a therapeutic writing curriculum, which has been well received by her clients. Allie lives in New Paltz, NY with her wonderful husband and, at any given moment, some or all of their collective seven children. She wouldn’t know an empty nest if she was sitting in one. Current projects include a the completion of a novel which she swears will not defeat her, building a blog, and spending as much time as possible with her newly minted granddaughter!

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