Monday, 12 April 2010

empty nest syndrome

A few days ago Rose appeared in the doorway saying: 'Beschuit met muisjes, mum.'

Beschuit met muisjes is what is traditionally served when a baby is born. Rusk with aniseed comfits (according to the dictionary.) Pink and white, nowadays blue and white, if the newborn is a boy.
So when someone says that, it is to herald a birth or a way of letting you know someone is pregnant.
Which is she telling me? I mentally check any expectant mums about to pop, while scrutinizing Roosje's tummy.
Nothing comes up and a little panicky I stammer: 'Just tell me - who?'
'The duck' she laughs, 'come and see, the eggs are hatching.'

I jump up, the duck!
I am not a patient person and for weeks now I have been waiting for those damn eggs to hatch. Driving everybody mad talking about them, my friends in the park were starting to avoid me.
They were getting a daily update of nothing much really.
The weather has been pretty dreary lately, that poor mother duck has been sat on those eggs, which by now I was convinced were stone cold, forever. Each morning I would look out of the bathroom window and see her, just sitting there, in the same position, on the damp, uncomfortable nest.
She wouldn't bat an eye, even when we started feeding her - at a respectful distance at first, not wanting to disturb the progress of this miracle. All kinds of other birds came flocking in, pecking away at the bread, but she wouldn't budge.
What was she, some kind of a martyr?
I am ashamed to say I started pelting her with crumbs, stupid bird, I was trying to help, wasn't I?

Now all is forgotten, ridiculously happy we peer out of the window and low and behold, two eggshells have been cast out of the nest. The mother is shifting about, trying to accommodate whatever is going on beneath her.
We are actually holding our breath.
Of course I expected all nine? ducklings to just  hop out of the nest, hello world, hello Katherine.
I wanted to get there as I had heard they would follow the first moving thing as their mother, but that wouldn't have been fair.

On the other hand, I couldn't detect much emotion coming from the new mum. She wasn't jumping for joy. She wasn't doing much at all. After seemingly irritated tossing away a bit of eggshell she had regained her natural placid expression and eventually Rose and I gave up.

It was obviously going to take a while.
I was on a cloud the rest of the day, regular checks, no, nothing changed, and by the time I went to bed I was ready to pluck that duck from the nest, I wanted to see the babies!

Next morning I find an empty nest. Meaning no ducks but evidence of a messy labour. What the f........!
'Peter' I cry, 'the ducks, where are they, what happened?'
'Oh, they are fine' he replies matter-of-factly. 'All eleven of them. Have a look, I managed to take a picture of them as they swam off.'
I am inconsolable. I don't want to look at the stupid photo, I want my duckies.

They are gone. Swimming around the Amsterdam canals, the waterside is too high for the little ones to get back up to our garden.

Every day, the mother duck comes back for lunch, she thinks she's got that coming now. But she leaves her offspring at safe distance.
Safe from me, but not from the pike, the rats, the herons.
I heard their feeble quacking this morning and in the distance I could just make out three little ducklings.
What happened to the rest?

I should have stood by that nest, all night if I had to, while they hatched.
They should have followed me.
I would have done a damn sight better at being their mum than their own stupid one.

I am feeling down, a bit tearful and some thing's missing in my life.

I think I am suffering from the empty nest syndrome.

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