When I was younger I had a thing for Mallard ducks. I’m not sure at what age it started, but once I shared it publicly I began to receive duck-themed presents on every gift-giving occasion. This lasted for several years. By the time it stopped I had amassed the following: two sets of duck bookends (both pairs of which I still have, somewhere); a plastic duck box that sat on a matching duck tray (both forest green, a gift from my 6th grade girlfriend, Natalie); a hand-sewn duck bedspread with complimentary duck dust ruffle and accent pillows (adore my mother); a duck-shaped lint remover; a plush duck; and a fancy duck water color painting (on the wall in my bedroom in Memphis to this day). There’s probably more that I’m not remembering, but you get the picture. However, it is another gift entirely that represents the true cost of my obsession. Picture it: Christmas morning, and under the tree are beautifully wrapped packages with big shiny bows that shimmer beneath the multi-colored lights. But there’s something odd about one of the presents: sitting off to the side, it’s wrapped in a black plastic garbage bag with a big red bow tied around it. It was for me, and inside was what else? My very own taxidermied duck. My father beamed, not because he’d bagged it himself, but because he’d thought it up and had my uncle kill it for me. Here it is hanging on my bedroom wall in Memphis: Now, don’t get me wrong. At the time I loved it. I hung it proudly on my wall. But looking back, I have to admit: that’s pretty fucked up. I’m just thankful my obsession with potbelly pigs didn’t occur until later. I was reminded of my pig obsession last week when I saw this video where Kingsford goes to the beach. Thankfully, I managed to endure that phase without acquiring anything more than a pig-shaped candle, a ceramic pig figurine, and a necktie.
It’s amazing how a simple affection can really turn into a theme. Or how something so seemingly simple as a meal can turn into an enduring tradition, as is the case with Thanksgiving. Two years ago Jeremy and I spent the holiday with his parents, and several of his aunts and uncles showed up. One of his aunts, in celebration of the day, fell off the wagon after a decade or so of sobriety. It was fabulous. By the time we were all ready to pull up to the table, she was in fine form and offered to say grace. It went something like this: “Dear God! We give thanks that on that first Thanksgiving, which of course was not called Thanksgiving, they didn’t eat cats! Amen.” Another aunt swooped in like a bio-clean team to offer her own blessing, but I was busy by that point trying to solve the initial devotional riddle. Thank God they didn’t eat cats, I figured, because Lord knows we would have continued that tradition as meaningfully as we have continued this one (though at some point, I suppose, we did start sneaking in ham). It got me thinking: Holy Shit! Thank goodness I fell in love with Mallard ducks, which actually have a hunting season. What if it had been, as Jeremy’s aunt suggested, kittens to which I’d taken a liking? Or Zebras? Or babies?! In a sense, looking back, even though it seems kind of weird now that I received the object of my affection stapled to a decorative log, it could have been worse.