A few days ago, during what was probably the coldest day of the year, I looked outside our frosted dining room window and could not at first believe what I saw. There, huddled on the telephone wire was a robin! Sure, I know that some robins (those confused, or lacking any sense of direction or adventure) stick around all winter. The smart ones, of course, head south and return in the spring to catch the early wormor however the saying goes. But, as kids, we were excited to spot the first robin of spring as a sure sign winter was finally over. A robin that returns in the spring when its safe and warm is a robin you can trust. A winter robin is weird, cynical and cold. Oh, look! Theres a robin! Robin: Yeah? So what! When you see a winter robin, the kindest thing to do is just look the other way. Remember that old Hans Christian Anderson story? Not the one about the kid with the silver snakesor was it skates? He was a little weird, too. Im talking about the story of the ugly duckling that turns out to be, not a duckling at all, but a beautiful swan. As a young swan, it was a misfit, mocked and rejected by the ducklings it was raised with. Now Im thinking this was really a story about prejudice. The little swan was picked on because he wasnt a duck and who did he think he was, trying to pass himself off as a duck? Also, Anderson makes it sound like swans are inherently better looking than ducks. Thats simply swan chauvinism. I think ducks are way cuteras long as they arent doing that waddly walk or quacking. Or bobbing for bugs in a pond. Or flying in a big flock over your headyou know what Im talking about. When the ugly duckling/swan in the story finally hooks up with a bunch of other swans, they welcome him as a fellow swan and he realizes he is not a duck after all and can, at last, intermingle with members of his own racial identity and live happily ever after. Yeah, right. I mean, think about it. Here is this swan who has grown up as a duck. You know he must have learned to walk like a duck and tried to talk like a duck. He ate whatever the other ducks ate. He was, for all practical purposes, a doggone duck. And when those other swans looked at him, they did not see a swan like themselves. They saw a goofy-looking duck. Plus, the little swan grew up as an odd duck. That was his identity. He adapted and grew into that role. But when he met up with the flock of swans, he understood for the first time in his life that he was not special. He was just another swan. If the story had continued, I bet the ugly duckling would have begged his rude duck family to take him back grateful at least he wasnt born into a family of winter robins.

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