The Mallard Malady

I have a pretty good memory. At least, I think I do. I suppose I’ll never know for sure since, if I’ve forgotten something, I wouldn’t actually be aware that I don’t remember it.

But, other people have expressed surprise at the things that I remember. I remember the names of guys I used to hang out with when I was five and six years old. If I’ve ever had to dial your phone number (in other words, if I don’t have you on speed dial), whether it was 5 weeks ago or 20 years ago, almost without fail, I won’t have to look up your number ever again. The recall’s almost instantaneous. And, the thing I was thinking about the other day — I can remember the name and appearance of every teacher I ever had in school right from Grade One through to graduation day.

Except Grade Two.

Don’t have a clue on that one. Name? Appearance? Male or female? Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

I happened to mention that the other night during dinner. And my wife’s first question: “So… what happened in Grade Two?”

And I rolled that around in my mind for several days before I finally found a fragment of a memory that I know was from Grade Two.

Mallard ducks. Friggin Mallard ducks.

We had been split into pairs and were to do a report of some sort. My partner and I chose mallard ducks. I think we had about a week to work on it. I spent the week cutting out pictures of mallards and gluing them on a display board. At the end of the week, we were chosen to present our report to not only the whole class but the principal as well.

(Interestingly, I can see the principal clear as a bell in my mind. Still have no clue about the teacher.)

The principal, however, was not content with the two of us just presenting our report. He started asking questions about Mallard ducks — questions that I, at least, couldn’t answer. And when I couldn’t answer them, he would answer them. Question after question, the depth of my lack of preparedness on the subject of Mallard ducks quickly became apparent in front of the principal, my teacher and the whole friggin class.

As anyone who knows me well could tell you, it takes me for-freakin-ever to get around to doing something new, something unfamiliar. I contemplate stuff like that for a long time. I examine it from every possible angle, trying to prepare for every possible contingency, every possible outcome. And then, of course, each of those has to be examined the same way. I want to be totally prepared for anything and everything that might possibly come my way as a result of doing whatever it is I’m preparing to do. Sometimes it’s a wonder I do anything at all. And, of course, it’s not even possible to be that totally prepared. Life often throws us curveballs that no one could have anticipated.

I always wondered where that tendency for preparation came from. Now, I think I know.

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