Twenty dollars meant for tomato plants, a skinny little flea market bunny missing patches of fur, and what happens when I’m left alone with a choice to make.
I have a soft heart. It’s probably also accurate to say I have a soft mind given my track record for debatable choices and equally debatable sanity.
Three years ago I stood at a table covered with plants, one of dozens and dozens stretched across a dirt lot and filled with chachkis, second hand items,odds and ends, and homemade crafts.
An old woman sat on a folding chair in a small portable pen with rabbits for sale around her feet. They were adorable. I just couldn’t resist moving a few steps closer to get a peek.
The thing that caught my eye was this very small, very skinny baby bunny hiding under her chair. He was much smaller than the other bunnies and missing so many patches of fur from being picked on by his heartier siblings.
I asked if I could hold him and she scooped the wee thing out from under her seat and handed him to me. I could feel his ribs. I don’t think it took me more than a second to fall in love with that poor creature and asked how much to buy him.
My husband just shook his head when he turned up with the car to load the tomato plants, only to find me standing with absolutely no tomato plants, and cuddling a very scared bunny under my chin.
I named him Buttercup because he was a buttery sweet thing. He wouldn’t eat at first. He just huddled in a corner of a Rubbermaid tote in the corner of my kitchen, looking sad and sleepy.
I nudged him and tried to coax him to drink but he stayed tucked and shaking. I worried over him and didn’t want him to be alone so I placed our three little ducklings in with him.
They quacked and bothered him with their curious plodding, and splashing around his food and water. Little by little he made his way over to his food and started nibbling. Every time the duckings tried to get to the food, he nibbled faster. There’s nothing like a little healthy competition to urge an underfed bunny to get hopping and eat!
It was amazing to see that wee thing start to strengthen and fatten. His fur grew back soft and silky. He grew bold hopping around our kitchen finding new edges of books to chew on and baskets to devour.
He’s three years old this month. His belly is nice and round and fat. He has a lovely double chin, long droopy ears that sweep the floor, a gentle heart and is definitely the best thing I ever bought for my garden.
I have been hushed too much for being me. Though I was raised to be true to myself I hushed myself to keep secrets, to smooth moods, to stabilize situations that felt too tumultuous, to hold together things that seemed to turn to water in my fingers.
I pressed my knuckles against my lips without even realizing I was doing it. I covered my mouth with my hand when I felt anxious and never noticed.
“It’s better for everyone. Keep the big picture in mind. It’ll blow over faster, there will be less of a mess. Better just you than everyone else. Find the bright side.”
Hushed by peers for speaking up, for speaking out, for being different. Hushed by other women who require specific social tiers.
“Don’t make waves, definitely hold your thoughts, and dress a little more conventionally. Earn your place at the table, on the sidelines, in break-room cliques, work functions, school events.”
Hushed by men for wanting to be seen by them as truly human, as more than a pretty, smiling doll to be taken out and played with, and then tossed into corners until I was wanted again. A head filled with thoughts and a heart burning wild, I am more, so much more.
“Don’t overwhelm men with your emotions so much and things will go better. Just be a little less…you know, ‘you’. “
Less of me.
Be less of me and things will go better and I’ll be more palatable to others.
Less of me.
Less of you.
But I won’t be hushed. I won’t be less. My silences helped on needed levels inside long ago, but strangled me far more than it was worth.
So I will bend, and I will grow, and I will learn and I will adapt but I will not be less and I will not be hushed anymore.
You were a California boy living near the ocean in Encinitas, sand between your toes, a smile that went on for miles but started in your eyes. I was the girl from Massachusetts trying on new states like pairs of shoes.
We met on a job in Phoenix Arizona in November 1993. A week later we flew to Colorado Springs, pulled onto the same team.
A little over a week into the Colorado job, just days before Thanksgiving and only a little over two weeks after we first met, you asked me to marry you and I said yes. That’s all it took.
Our families thought we were crazy, possibly a little drunk, definitely foolish, but they loved us and stood with us.
We didn’t know where we were going, where we were planning to live, or what we wanted to be when we grew up.
25 years ago, on a morning filled with sunshine and promise, we held hands and dove into the sky and into the vast unknown, and held tight.
Happy anniversary to the man who didn’t blink, didn’t swerve, just held my hand and jumped.
Every day that I work I kick off my shoes in my car at lunch. I roll the windows down, lean my seat all the way back, and stare up at the sky through the moon roof.
I take slow, deep breaths in the quiet, my feet sticking out of the driver side window, and let a little calm wash through me.
It doesn’t matter that it’s only thirty minutes in an eight and a half hour day. It doesn’t matter that I’m sitting in a slightly battered old car, or that it’s parked in a lot at the hospital. I can let go immediately, wherever I am, it’s free and easy and it feels like a little vacation for my soul.
My distress tolerance was very low by the end of the day when I stopped to pick up a few things on my way home from work. I Spotted bright, cheery yellow flowers on my way in and decided to treat myself to two or three to plant later on.
I was having trouble pulling apart the little plastic plant sections and getting very frustrated. Soil spilled and the containers refused to part and words slipped from my lips that ought not be used in polite company.
I stopped to take a deep breath and I asked myself
“Ellie , what would help you feel less frustrated and better able to control your anger?”
And I said to myself,
“not trying to pull these @#%! damn things apart, and getting all pissed and mad as hell, and just buying the whole damn thing. THAT would help me feel less frustrated and better able to cope with my anger!”
I started my chores wearing my spirit animal, the turtle, to remind me to take it slow and steady today. I’ll let the audience decide how THAT went…
One of my dogs had a vet appointment (well check) today. While I was paying, the vet stuck her head out and said “I don’t suppose you’d be willing to take a duck home with you ? Someone brought a Muscovy duck (full grown, female) in injured that they found a few days ago. She’s healthy and just needs a home. “
I kept signing, didn’t look up and said “sure.” They said “Do you want to take a look first?”
I never looked up, I just said “Nah. We all know I’m taking her home no matter what she looks like. “
They carried out a cardboard box taped across the top and asked “are you sure? You haven’t seen her.” I waved it off as I grabbed the box against my hip, papers tucked under my arm, a dog on a leash in my other hand and keys dangling from my teeth and schlepped everyone out to my car.
My only requirements are ‘does this creature need a home?’ and ‘how soon will hubby notice another critter following the feed bucket with the others in the morning?’ Beyond that, it’s a safe bet it’s coming home with me.
I sent a picture of the sealed box to Dale and told him “I had to spend all your money on vet bills, so happy birthday (his birthday is Saturday), I got you a used duck.”
So now I have a used duck in the kitchen, hissing at bunny who is eating his feelings at a buffet of dog food bowls because the hissing duck won’t let him go past to his hutch, and the dogs when they come close for a curious sniff. The used duck keeps trying to fly out the kitchen window.
I’m giving her an hour to settle down and feel safe before I take her out to the Coop. I’ll keep her cooped up for about a week (gives her time to finish healingabd acclimate), then open the door and let her decide if she wants to stay. At least I’ll know she feel safe and has food and water.
I stepped out to pick up a kid from classes and came into an empty kitchen, and open empty box, and no sign of the duck or any one else. All I could think of was “Goddamnit! That duck is on the loose somewhere in this house and the kids aren’t even watching!!!”
But then I heard muffled guitar music and followed it into the bathroom where I found Caleb, perched on the toilet playing gentle guitar music for the new used duck, now swimming in my bathtub and looking very zen. Caleb….that kid is a duck whisperer and a sweet soul. My bathroom is a disaster. But the duck seems chill.
Dale arrived home, delighted with his used birthday duck, and snuggled her contentedly (after chasing it upstairs and back down stairs mind you). She’s now out in the coop, chilling with the chickens, a pool to swim in, piles of food, and doing well.
Yes. We definitely are that family. I wouldn’t have it any other way. And now to assign cleaning the house to various children and spouse while I collapse into a soft blanket and hug my favorite bucket. Day two recovery on the books, Ellie style!