VIOLA - “Hey Mom, look at me! Over here—here I am! Mom, hey Mom, can you come over here a second? Mom? Mom?”
Summer. The demands are never-ending for moms, dads, and duckling mothers alike. It might even be harder for parents of an only child.
Sushi, my rescue duckling, is as demanding as any three-year-old human. First she wants to play in her pool, then she wants to eat, and afterwards she wants me to hold her. I pick her up to sit down with her and she starts squawking that she wants to go play in the yard. How does a person get any work done?
When Gary called from the Viola post office saying my chicks had arrived, I grabbed my car keys, told Sushi, “Your friends are here!” and ran out the door. When Gary handed me the warm box, I informed him, “They’re not chicks, they’re ducklings and goslings,” and off I went to open the box in the car.
Eleanor (I named her on the spot for Mrs. Roosevelt) was the first one I saw. One of two geese, she was heads above the rest of the fluffy bunch and also the loudest. She seemed to have a lot to say, like, “Get me outta here and are you my mother?” I cuddled her on my chest and cooed to her that indeed I am her mother, and I drove us carefully home with both eyes on the road and one hand on the wheel.
By the time I pulled into the driveway, our relationship was solid. Bonus: she didn’t poop on me.
The Duck Hall had been cleaned, completely rewired, and the door refitted so not even a mouse could slip in. The heat lamps were hung with care, one over a makeshift pen for the babies, and the other over Sushi’s area, where she could get to know her new friends by watching them through a wall of chicken wire.
And so she did. Sushi’s new favorite place to sit is as close to the chicken wire as she can get. Her favorite stuffed animal, which she’d been sleeping with since coming here to live, has been abandoned—but not forgotten: Ruben, having spied what was once histoy, swiftly reclaimed it.
With Sushi no longer living inside the baby crib in my house, my days start even earlier. After a good-morning stretch, my first thought is to get outside and check on how everybody did through the night. As I approach the Duck Hall, when it first becomes visible in the early-morning twilight, the quiet is deafening.
Turning the latch as slowly and silently as I can, I peek in, my heart pounding in anticipation of what I might see.
There next to the wire separation wall is Sushi, still sleeping and looking practically grown up compared to the younger newcomers. Her pin feathers have grown in with a range of shades from brown to black, with a hint of gold.
The rest of the gang wake up when they hear my voice, and Eleanor does all the talking: “Morning, Mother, we’d appreciate a bit of fresh water, some greens, and some grain. Pippi won’t stop pestering everyone but otherwise we’re A-okay.”
Stepping over Sushi, who is so used to me she doesn’t even bother to move, I reach in and grab their water dish. After refilling it, I pick some fresh grass and throw it into the pen. A free-for-all breaks out with Eleanor easily towering over the others to get the best clippings, and Pippi, a Silver Appleyard no bigger than a plum, bobbing and weaving her way into the mess and getting the second best of the greens.
With a total of two goslings and 10 ducklings, Sushi finally has a feathered family. And still her furry friend Ruben remembers to check in on her to say hello.
The silence in the house now is disturbing. I’d gotten used to Sushi, aka Ms. Bossy Pants, running me ragged. Nowadays, I rarely hear a quack out of her.
Sushi’s days are full of watching her friends and dreaming of the day they’ll be big enough to share her pool.
Is this why people choose to have more than one child?Now back to my housework.