The first bird we raised on our homestead. I brought her home in a barn-shaped cardboard box from the feed store on my 35th birthday. We had a sweet foster babe with us that day, and I bought a small duck stuffed animal for her and each of my boys. There was a soundbox sewn in that quacked when squeezed, and foster babe squealed delightedly when I pushed the button and nibbled her toes with the duck bill.
I held the box of ducklings on my lap on the way home and I felt like I was cradling the spark of something I longed for my whole life. I set up a brooder in my laundry room beneath the window and the boys took turns feeding handfuls of sweet peas to the ducklings, giggling as the duck bills dabbled in the divots of their cupped hands. Foster babe lunged and reached for the ducks again and again, but they always dodged her wild grasps.
The ducklings grew FAST, as ducklings do, and soon they were splashing and diving in the blue plastic kiddie pool in our backyard. I sat and watched them for hours on sunny afternoons, scooting my chair back, and back again, as their ducky antics grew wetter and wilder. Who knew a few birds would offer such thrilling live entertainment?
Four years have passed, and foster babe is across the country now, with her mama. The quacking duck stuffed animals haven’t been seen in years — they are probably wedged beneath a car seat somewhere, or between the bed and the wall where small toys and paper airplanes go to die.
But Dahlia is still here. Her flock has grown to a dozen. Our little homestead has expanded onto the adjacent property and the menagerie now includes seven breeds of chickens, New Zealand and Silver Fox rabbits, honeybees, and a small flock of Katahdin sheep. The farm that was a spark of a dream only five years ago is alive with noise and color and the deep joy that comes with chasing after a calling, no matter how out-of-reach or unconventional it seems next to where you are at the time.
In the meantime, God, with his wise and clever weaving, has connected us with another child to love on — a small boy who delights in nothing more than carrying offerings of cracked corn and kitchen scraps to the ducks. “Let’s go see Dahlia!” he exclaims when he arrives at our house, kicking off his sandals and slipping on the rubber Paw Patrol boots we keep near the front door, just for him. The ducks come running as we enter the gate, Dahlia bringing up the rear. She quacks and waddles and sways her fluffy butt side to side, determined to get to those treats. We wait for her to get to the finish line before doling out the scraps, and every time, I smile and tell her she’s my spirit animal.
What can a duck really know? Can she know I pointed to her in the metal stock tank at the feed store, declaring that I wanted that one, my heart giddy over the best birthday gift I’d ever received? Can she know what came alive in me as she rode home in my lap from the feed store? Can she know how loved she is by every kiddo who’s run or played at Moss & Meadow farm? That she’s everybody’s absolute favorite?
She may be a duck, but her ten pounds of frolicking fluff have been, and always will be, one of the best things that have ever happened to me.
To all of us.