The day broke bright. And warm. The sun and fresh air called to my children and I found myself drinking in the morning air as I told them to feed and water the poultry. And again as I called them to breakfast. And again as I called them to start school. And again as I called them back to school after putting the baby down for his nap.
School is of little use on a day perfect for running, so I decided to put their running to use.
“It’s time to teach Faithful what she’s for,” I told them. “It’s time to teach her to herd the ducks and geese.”
Every morning until planting, the waterfowl must be taken to the garden to pick over the weeds and spread their nitrogen-rich manure. Every evening, they must be returned to their pen to protect them from all that lurks in the dark.
Last fall, herding was a simple task. I opened the gate and they followed me wherever I went. Now, after a season of captivity, they celebrated their freedom. Quacking, honking, flapping . . . wings beat the air, and the geese left the ground for their first flight of the year. They made it about ten yards, but it was all too much for the children who began chasing them, stretching their wings, shouting their appreciation of freedom in the fresh country air.
“They flew, Mommy! They really flew!” Bug shouted to me, eyes shining.
Finally, they wore themselves out. Geese and ducks and children returned to me, out of breath from the pure expression of joy. I smiled, told the children where to walk and we slowly pushed the birds toward the garden.
Released from their chore, the children went back to the hill to tackle it with their bikes. I remembered my camera.
I also remembered how difficult it is to take pictures of the geese, for every time I kneel down, they run toward me, head lowered, honking and peeping in an excited greeting.
“It has been awhile, hasn’t it?” I asked Turkey as he walked up to the fence. “I’m sorry, guys. But it’s been a long winter.”
For a moment, I could almost see Tiggy standing there beside me, hugging his sippee cup under one arm, pointing at the geese.
And in that same moment, I realized I had been avoiding the poultry. Every day, three times a day, I sent the children down in pairs to do a chore I almost always did before. A chore I almost always did with Tiggy at my side.
I smiled as the tears burned and my heart sang with a feeling of love so intense it overwhelmed any other emotion. How many times have I felt that for him before? When I first felt him kick, held him in the hospital, watched him sleep. When I nursed him, sang to him, held his little hand. When he kissed me, rubbed his baby brother’s head, giggled his little boy giggle.
But before there was a forehead to kiss, a wisp of hair to stroke, a Tiggy to hold. Now, I just had this moment. So I sat there in the damp grass at the edge of the garden, watching the geese, listening to the excited squealing of the children and missing my little boy.