My husband and I recently spent 10 days at an Airbnb that I chose mainly because of its description of being on a property with horses, a pig, goose, goats, and chickens.
Growing up in the 50s and 60s had its intense moments (warring countries and the threat of nuclear war were prevalent back then, too) but mostly, my childhood in rural Wisconsin with dogs, cats, ducks, and rabbits with odd names like Doodle was idyllic. One might say it was Quack-a-Doodle.
Our menagerie of pets came in handy when my brother and I planned our float for the neighborhood doll buggy parade. Local store owners, Mr. and Mrs. Abbott, arranged for us kids to have a fun summer activity. They chose a judge and gave prizes for categories such as the best float and most creative costume. Neighborhood kids might dress like iconic characters (Uncle Sam, a clown, or princess) or simply put together odd costumes. (See the accompanying photo of my brother and me.)
My brother and I draped our wagon with crepe paper and plotted how to keep our pets in the wagon. Participants paraded down West Johnson Street in rural Racine, Wisconsin. Musicians added to the festivities by playing various instruments. Neighbors, mostly salt-of-the-earth blue-color workers, shouted greetings to one another and applauded as each float passed. After the parade, the Abbotts awarded all participants with prizes, making everyone feel like a winner.
Since leaving that neighborhood, I have participated in Mardi Gras, Memorial Day, and 4th of July parades, but they don’t have the same close community feel as the West Johnson neighborhood parade of my youth.
Trying to recapture those joyous days, I’ve written a picture book entitled The Quack-a-Doodle Parade. In it, kids create funky costumes, repair a wobbly wagon, and decorate it for a float. On the day of the parade, they add their pet rabbit and a tub of water for their ducklings. The quackers are happily swimming in the tub during the parade when a rambunctious Great Dane, Mr. Slobbers, desperately needs a drink. He spots the wobbly wagon and galumphs over. His long tongue laps up water, scattering the ducklings and creating chaos and fun.
I was thrilled to receive the picture book illustrations a few days ago. I love how the illustrator, Ellen Gillette, has the girl dressing up like a duck and adorns her feet with orange webbed swim flippers. Ellen also includes several colorful images of a happy-go-lucky childhood filled with imaginative play.
If I could, I’d grant children everywhere the great “Quack-a-Doodle” childhood I had. But since that isn’t possible, I hope through this story they can share in a moment of innocent, joyful fun.