FAMILY TIES

The duckling cooed and giggled, enchanted by the little planes that floated above his cot.

He reached out a chubby hand toward them, fascinated by the way they danced in the early summer breeze.

Try as he might, he just couldn't reach them.

This did not upset the little duck, quite the opposite.

Where there's a will there's a way, his bright eyes said, even though he couldn't put this into thought or words.

He turned onto his tummy, rose onto hands and knees, then, gripping the cot's side-bars, pulled himself to a standing position -a recently acquired skill.

He chortled, and still keeping a grip on the bars, toddled slowly to the end of the cot.

Letting go, he lost his balance and plopped onto his bottom.

He giggled delightedly -that was fun!- as the mobile caught his eye again.

The little duck was so engrossed in watching the colourful wooden airplanes he didn't notice his nana enter the room.

Amelia McQuack looked at her grandson's sparkling eyes as he pulled himself up again and smiled.

"Launchpad, my sweet bairn. Ye're supposed to be nappin', child," she chided gently, running a hand over the duckling's shock of thick red hair.

"Na, na na!" he crowed, holding up his arms, and she picked him up, settling into a rocking chair.

She stroked the duckling's downy back; the afternoon was very warm and he wore only a nappy.

"What are we going to do with you lad?" she whispered with a smile, tickling him under the beak and making him squirm and giggle.

She held him close and began singing one of her favourite folk songs.

You take the high road

And I'll take the low road

And I'll be in Scotland a'fore ye...

Amelia glanced at the down as she sang; the little one's bright eyes never left her face, and it was plain that he also wasn't getting sleepy.

"Aye, Launchpad me lad, if ye're grandad were still here he'd have you out like a light; he had a way with the bairns," she said to him, thinking fondly of her late husband.

The duckling looked up at her and she kissed him on the forehead, vaguely registering that the sounds of the circling biplanes had ceased.

The duckling did not notice; the noise of the planes was such a constant in his life that its presence or absence did not call attention to itself.

Amelia stood up, gently placing the child on the rug, and searched through a hand-carved wooden chest that stood under the window.

"Here they are lad, your grandad's flight cap and goggles," she said softly.

She scooped up the duckling, who made a sound of annoyance -he'd become caught up playing with his webbed feet- and settled in the old rocking chair again.

"Your grandad always said he wanted his first grandchild to wear these," Amelia said to the child, slipping the cap on him.

It covered him to his hips and he giggled as she gently pulled it off with a smile.

"You'll grow it into my boy, and I know you'll make us all proud," she said quietly, looking up at the framed black and white photo that sat on the shelf above the cot.

It showed a strapping young pilot leaning against a plane that had a British Air Force insignia, giving the camera a cheeky grin, and the date scrawled in the corner was August 1940.

The duckling held the cap to his chest like a teddy bear; the faint leather scent was strangely comforting.

Amelia glanced at her grandson and saw that he was beginning to doze off.

She started to gently remove the flight cap, but the little duck had a grip on it that would mean disturbing him if she took it away.

"Well, it's a little early, child, but hang onto it for now," she whispered, "It'll bring you luck in your life, for your grandad will always be looking out for you."

She glanced up as Ripcord and Birdie McQuack quietly entered the room to check on their little boy, finished with their aerial stunts for the day.

"Oh Ripcord, isn't he darling," Birdie said, full of motherly admiration, gazing at her child sleeping in his nana's arms.

"He's a McQuack," Ripcord said proudly, "No doubt about it, the boy's gonna make us so proud. I can't wait to get him up in the blue with me."

"Maybe we better wait until he can walk dear," Birdie said with a smile, kneeling beside the rocking chair, and Amelia slipped her free arm around her shoulders.

Ripcord came to stand beside his mother, dwarfing her with his size.

He ran a finger softly down his son's cheek, chuckling as he saw how he held his father's flight cap and goggles.

"He looks just like Dad," Ripcord said, and the three of them gazed at the little boy, the next generation of McQuack.