Perhaps it’s the curve of their peach-colored bills or the slight narrow upturn of their eyes, smiling. Maybe it’s what Stella calls their “lellow fur” or their too-big feet. It definitely has something to do with their ludicrous wings, poking fuzzy and useless from their shoulders.
Whatever it is, I succumbed to it, and we now have six ducklings living in our kitchen.
Usually, my resistance is strong. I repeat my mantra, “All babies are cute.” The second part of that mantra, “and then they grow up,” can remain unsaid while I walk away from the cute babies. Except on April 1, when I walked away with a box of ducklings, carried from the store by a jubilant Stella.
My head has been bursting with the South’s dogwoods, azaleas, and magnolias, but my eyes meet brown fields, brown trees, gray skies, and not a single blooming plant. The air has been cold and odorless. I’ve been battling a funk that sunk deeper as the snow shrank away. Winter dazzled me; spring feels bleak.
How do people buoy themselves until spring truly arrives here? We dabbled in one tactic, visiting a local saphouse for breakfast, leaving heavy with pancakes, sausage, and generous portions of maple syrup, but lighter for the rising sweetness of trees. When another joy of spring occurred to me, I knew we were in trouble.
“At least I didn’t buy bunnies, or lambs, or a puppy,” I pointed out. Andrew—who kindly encouraged my duckling pursuit, which I did premeditate by about a week—agreed that it could’ve been worse. Ducks are smaller than lambs, more useful than bunnies, and less work than a puppy, or so we figured. I did expect them to be messy, however, and have not been disappointed.
Ducks are completely uncivilized. In our kitchen, they slap around on pine shavings in their livestock trough, always cheerful on the verge of panic. Their heads snorkel into their waterer, which turns brown within five minutes of a refill. They poop prodigiously.
Every day, Sam weighs each one on a small gram scale, tracking their growth for his science fair project. He mostly loves watching them crane their necks and launch from the plastic bowl, but he diligently writes down the numbers.
We watch them thrashing exuberantly around our bathtub in several inches of tepid water, showing us how zealously ducks really do take to water. Then they cluster in hysterics while I scoop them into a towel to transfer back to clean shavings while I disinfect the bathtub.
Then those stinky little hoodlums hear our voices and tilt their heads, lifting one eye towards our faces and peeping, “sweet sweet,” and I’m glad they’re here, warming April.