I looked under the bed, dismantled the couch, pawed through the dirty- laundry pile like a dog digging for a scrap of meat.
I scoured the unlikely places - the laptop-sized slot behind the bookshelf, among the clattering cleaning fluids under the sink and in the wreckage of Rose's daily dress-up pile. I did not find one 2-year-old girl's soft, yellow, indispensable nighttime friend. Ducky was officially on the loose.
When Rose was still very small, attached to me like a persistent pimple and shaking me from slumber hourly, I was just the tiniest bit touchy. I remember standing in front of the bathroom mirror, wondering how long Ducky had been tucked in my bra, and if I had left the house like that. But that was before Ducky was Ducky and was simply a generic lovey-in-training.
A lovey, according to your average parenting rag, is "a transitional object used by children to aid their feeling of security." That's exactly what I was hoping Ducky would become while the yellow scrap of cotton soaked up my Mama scent.
Ducky was accepted like kin. While I nursed Rose, she kneaded Ducky's dingy, love-worn body like a Buddhist monk fingering Mala beads in prayer. When I released my baby into her crib, Ducky took over, quacking soothing sounds in Rose's ears while I spent time with my husband - my lovey.
As most parents know, this attachment to 3 ounces of slowly decomposing material holds the seeds of disaster. If Ducky ever got lost in the household flotsam, Rose would sleep as soundly as I would in a cemetery. Col's friend Mariah has a lovey so indispensable that when her family packs the car for a vacation, they wouldn't so much as turn the key in the ignition before confirming that "night-night" is aboard. Even in the most organized families, a high-adrenaline search-and-rescue mission for the misplaced lovey two minutes before nap time is frighteningly common.
Col, 4, is free and easy with his nighttime friends, and his revolving bedfellows have included a zucchini he plucked from our garden, roofing screws and, ugh, a rusty railroad spike.
Truthfully, Ducky was a little creepy. Merely a duck's head attached to a small square of fabric. Ducky's eyes were little black slits, suggesting in a cartoonish way that she was over her legal limit, or perhaps even dead.
One ordinary morning, weeks after Ducky's disappearance, the kids were testing my bed as a trampoline when Col said as matter-of-factly as a meteorologist reporting another sunny day in Durango, "I think I'll get Ducky now, except I need a long stick."
He pointed behind our bed, a place I examined roughly 2,000 times, and there lay the unmistakable, grunge-yellow Ducky flopped over like she'd had a long strange trip and forgot her way home.
Unanswered questions for the 4-year-old remain, but Rose is slumbering soundly again, and "back-up Ducky" now is on hand, fluffy and new and ready to serve.
Rachel Turiel was shocked to see that the new Ducky has a white collar. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org