Pacifier? Check. Sippy cup? Check. Scraps of bread? Check. I snapped the safety strap of the red-and-white-striped umbrella stroller across three-year-old Harry’s waist. Then I adjusted the canopy to protect his face from the Sunshine State’s namesake symbol. The year was 1993.
“Should we go find the ducks, Harry?”
“Yes!” he said, excitedly kicking the footrest. The kid loved baby animals, and we’d seen ducklings in the pond as we drove by the day before.
I pushed the stroller down my father-in-law’s driveway on Alton Drive and turned right. The streets of his sleepy Clearwater neighborhood were quiet, but I crossed the street anyway to make sure no car could sneak up behind us. Harry and I were both silent as I turned left at the end of the block. He had plugged in his pacifier, and I was enjoying the smell of tall grasses along the field to our right. We were just two blocks from the suburban duck pond when Harry spoke.
“I love you, Momma,” he said softly.
I stopped moving. And just like that, my heart inflated like a Valentine balloon.
I walked around to face my precious-heart boy and stroked his warm cheek with my hand.
“I love you, too, Peanut. Forever and always. No matter what.” Then I hugged him.
He smiled and popped the pacifier back in his mouth.
Back behind the stroller, under the cloudless blue Florida sky, I thought about how much this small child loved me and trusted me. He counted on me to cherish him and protect him. And at that moment I felt just how powerful unconditional parent-child love can be. More than anything, I wanted Harry to have a happy life. And all it was going to take that day was a mother duck and her cute, quacking ducklings.
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