Many people eagerly anticipate the Super Bowl because it’s the culmination of the football year. I look forward to it because it signals the beginning of the end of winter.
This time of year, when overcast skies blanket brittle limbs, winter seems eternal—a never-ending cycle of bleakness regardless of what Punxsutawney Phil says. Around this time of year, I always think of my mom who shared my disdain for winter. In the days before our iPhones could tell us exactly how many minutes of light our winter days hold, my mother would record the time of the sun’s daily demise.
“One and a half extra minutes in the day today,” she would report over the telephone.
Contrary to what die-hard football fans say, I’m convinced that one reason the Super Bowl is so popular is because of its arrival on the heels of winter. It is a distraction that comes just when we need one. For a few hours it takes our minds off snow boots, icy windshields and sore throats. I’m always delighted to see February end because it’s the last wintry month of the year. Conversely, for this summer girl, November is the worst—because I dread trudging through four bleak months.
This past November, in our building, tiny ducks started to appear on the placards outside everyone’s office. When I noticed the first one, I thought it was a prank. Then days later I saw a second and a third. Pretty soon tiny ducks were popping up everywhere. People started asking questions. Ducks became the topic de jour. No one knew who was placing them there or what they meant—but those ducks led us through the first harsh month of winter. In December different ducks appeared, donning tiny Christmas hats.
Although these ducks were quite the conversation piece around the metaphorical water cooler, they also led to consternation—at least by me. You see, my placard remained bare: no duck.
One day before I knocked on a colleague’s door for our meeting, I noticed four tiny ducks gathering on his name plate. When I lamented to him that I had none, he offered to share.
“That defeats the purpose,” I said bitterly. “I don’t want pity ducks.”
With the end of the Christmas holidays, I trudged back to work in January to find—to my delight—that a new flock of ducks inhabited our building: pastel ones. The one on my placard was mint green. Yes! I had been ducked!
As the war in Ukraine reaches the one-year mark, as we pray for news of rescued Turks and Syrians, as our civil discourse heats up and our patience with inflation dwindles, maybe we all need the rowdiness of a football game or the silliness of a tiny duck to fill these winter days. In a world of horrors and sadness, of icy grass and barren trees, perhaps we all need to find ways to be whimsical. To make each other laugh and smile.
I never could delight, as my mom did, in the thought of daylight growing by minutes. Those collections of seconds always seemed so inconsequential. But she was right: after a while, those minutes expand the daylight by an hour. And when you’ve laughed and chattered over things like tiny ducks, you find that those giggles have added up to a broad smile. Ah, the power of fleeting moments. And tiny ducks.
Look for the whimsical ducks in your life. Pass them on. And know that Spring is coming.