Just A Few Life Lessons Taught by Ducks

Nathan Kellerman


The golden sheen, autumn breeze, and memories associated with the ducklings are most important. As a young boy, every so often I would go and visit the well-known statue – not so much as to enjoy the art but as to appreciate the memories associated with it. The shining structure of the popular Make Way For Ducklings statue consists of a mother duck walking throughout the Boston Garden, with her children following close behind. Not only are these ducklings following their mother, but they are depending on her, relying on their mother for guidance in multiple realms of their lives. Whether it be where to eat, how to swim, or even survive in general, the mother duck just knows. She knows where to go and what to do – knowledge gained through years of searching and living. It is these perceptions that make this piece of art so special, that make it worth remembering. The statue, based off the children’s novel Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, tells the story of two ducks, Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, and their journey through Boston. Throughout this journey, they are searching for one thing and one thing only: a home for their soon to be born ducklings. After flying to many famous Boston landmarks, such as Beacon Hill, the Charles River, and the Massachusetts State House, the exhausted Mr. and Mrs. Mallard decide to rest in the Boston Garden, a then-popular public garden known for its well-maintained duck pond and friendly audience. After being fed by multiple police officers and tourists, the ducks decide to settle down in the Garden, where they are welcomed warmly. This story, while simple, has grown to become a staple of Boston culture, named the “official book of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”   

While this work of art is referred to generally as a kid’s attraction, it is enjoyed by both adults and children alike, due to its strong connection to the surrounding Boston area. Thanks to the influence of the statue, the neighboring areas of the Garden have adopted multiple duck themed attractions, such as the duck pond, boats, and tours. The latter is one of the main attractions in Boston, bringing in people of all ages to experience the unique tour, which takes place on both land and river.  

After hearing these origins, one may wonder – why is this story important, isn’t it just another popular children’s story with minimal significance? The answer to this question is both simple and complicated in nature, as the true meaning and symbolism of the statue are limited to only the individual; to one who has never witnessed the statue in real life, it may hold less significance than to a Boston native who has seen the piece multiple times.  

When thinking of the statue, one may immediately think of one thing, being the plot of the novel. In said writing, two mallards are searching for a new home for their ducklings. Naturally, they want to ensure the location is safe, practical and welcoming, which is why they spend a long amount of time searching. After going to many places, the two birds always find something wrong with the possible location – maybe its too high up or too busy – and this process of searching takes almost the entire length of the book. Only after exercising patience and carefulness are the soon-to-be parents able to find a loving home for their ducklings. This then-strange concept was something my mother had always stressed to me: in the mallards taking their time to find a home, they were ensuring they were happy with the results. While this example of patience may seem silly, it is one I often referred to in the back of my mind as a child, which played a part in making me the person I am today. Going back to the statue, this concept of patience is seen here as well, as I remember the lines leading up to the duck attractions certainly requiring my young self to have patience.  

Thinking back on old memories, another large part of the statue is its bright golden color and almost perfect nature. As a child, this sculpture would be something visited on special occasions, done so usually because of an important event in my life. Maybe it was first grade graduation or a promotion for my father at work, but that statue always seemed to be something existing in happy portions of my young life. Now that I can think of it, I fail to recall any negative memories related to the sculpture or the Boston Garden in general. Nowadays, I wonder why this is. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the statue, and after having gone back to visit it, excited for my mind to be flooded with memories of good times at the location, I was met with disappointment. The statue appeared faded, a color closer to gray than gold. The Garden seemed less busy than I remembered it to be. Overall, it appeared as a dulled down version of what I once knew it as. While this may seem peculiar to some, I mainly feel the reason for this was because my memories of the statue were impacted by nostalgia: what had once seemed perfect now seemed much less so.  

Maybe this strange phenomenon called nostalgia doesn’t mean anything – maybe the duck statue was just worn out by the weather since I had last seen it. Maybe those mornings watching Disney Channel and playing on my DS in my parent’s old house held little significance in my life. While I seem unsure about these things, something I am sure about is the lessons I learned from the statue. Even though the statue may seem washed and dull to me now, I hope that sometime soon, another will soon realize the symbolism in the piece of art; that maybe they too, will learn a few life lessons from ducks.