Sam had an appointment with an oral surgeon. He was more nervous than a seven year old boy should be. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him nervous, so to ease the anxiety, I let him bring Ducky. When we pulled into the parking space he said, “Don’t open the door right away. I need to shove Duck into my pocket.” I looked in the mirror and caught his eyes. His smile may have been embarrassed.

Ducky, Duck, Duck-Man, Duck-a-Reno was a “gift” from my mom when Sam was born. She thought she was funny. See, seven years ago there was a ducky craze in infant apparel and blankets and stuffed animals. I didn’t really “get” the affinity for ducks. I may have mentioned this a time or a zillion to my mom. Even more than not understanding why anyone would want to adorn their newborn in ducks, was why anyone would buy a stuffed animal head with a blanket attached. Where was the body? And couldn’t this derange a child?

The Duck Man is a yellow headed duck with an orange beak attached to a blue blanket with no body. This sick joke took a turn for the worse when it became the one thing he had to have all the time. Yes, Ducky has been with him since week one and he’s slept with him every single night for his entire life.

Now he was trying to stuff him in his puffy winter coat pocket. Even without the ski gloves there wouldn’t be room for Duck.

“I can put him in my purse, if you want.”

“That’d be great, but don’t let anyone see him.”

Is there a more perfect age than in-between big and little? Still little enough to need Ducky, yet big enough that the entire world doesn’t need to know about Duck-Man.

He sat in the chair. He listened to the nurses and we made the decision to keep him awake. The procedure was expected to be minor. I looked him in the eyes, “It will sting when they give you the shot.”

“Will it hurt?”

“Yes, but I think you can handle it.”

His eyes stayed wide, he nodded. “Okay, I can do it.”

The doctor came in and he and Sam swapped jokes. When the doctor and nurse turned away, I held up my purse, raised my eyebrows, and asked without words, Do you want Duck?

He shook his head. I tucked the purse behind my boots. Ducky stayed hidden.

It only took minutes (and a very skilled surgeon). “You are as brave as they get,” he said.

Sam said, “You can’t have brave without scared.”

“I guess not,” the surgeon responded.

“It’s from Hound Dog True by Linda Urban,” I said, wondering when this boy who hides a duck-blanket in my purse became old enough to quote books.

It’s the in-between that we live. Always changing. Always becoming. Always a bit younger than we think we should be. And always about to arrive at the next place. It’s in-between that I want to learn to love for myself as much as I do for him.

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  1. Things that I love:
    1. That your son knows this book.
    2. That my favorite quote from this book that I love came to him at such a potent time.
    3. The simple truth that you truly can't have brave without scared.

  2. Ruth — thank you for sharing this. You have no idea what it means to me.
    Please tell your son that my work-in-progress features a young boy who is small for his age and happens to be wearing a ducky sweatshirt with goggly eyes.