I have seen crocuses and went out looking for Spring.
1941: In what is probably the city’s most famous bird migration, a pair of mallards descend on the Boston Common. The stars of Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings, their family of peanut-eating, traffic-stopping ducks made made the book beloved, the official children’s book of the State of Massachusetts, and eventually, a force for nuclear disarmament.
Robert McCloskey attended art school in Boston in the 1930s, where he spent a lot of time feeding the ducks. After failing to make much headway as an artist in New York, he drafted Make Way for Ducklings on a trip back to the Boston. During revisions, he would bring six live ducklings to live in his West Village studio.
Ducklings Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack
McCloskey’s ducklings would became a statue in Boston’s Public Gardens. And, in 1991, on a visit to Moscow, Barbara Bush presented Raisa Gorbachev with a set of replicas outside Novodevichy Monastery, while their husbands met in the Kremlin to sign the START Treaty.
The New York Times reported on the event in classic early-90s style:
“There’s something magical about the thought of American children loving and playing with ducks in Boston while children in Moscow are doing the same,” Mrs. Bush said of the gift. Mayor Gavriil K. Popov promised to watch over the bronze creatures but looked at them with his lugubrious smile and advised, “You ducklings are not going to have as simple and easy a life here, just like all Muscovities.”
As it turned out, Popov had a point. One of the ducklings was stolen that year. Three more were sawed off at the feet in 1999 to be sold for scrap, apparently a common crime in Moscow. The ducklings were replaced in 2000. (The Public Gardens have lost several ducklings over the years, the latest in 2009.)
McCloskey, then 76, attended the first dedication ceremony, and appeared visibly moved.
“I never expected — who would expect? I couldn’t imagine this ever happening.”