It’s funny, the things that stay with us, the things we remember throughout our lives. When I was in elementary school, sometime between 2nd and 4th grade, we made paper mache ducks in art class.
We built the ducks’ bodies on styrofoam meat trays, added toilet paper tubes for necks and a wad of newspaper at the other end for a head. When the paper mache was dry, we painted our ducks and glued on orange construction-paper beaks.
We were Wisconsin school children, raised in the great Midwestern woodlands. Even though we were all city children, we had seen ducks, at park ponds, at the zoo, in general Wisconsin-y things. Woodland ducks, mallards with their deep green heads and necks and brown bodies. We painted our mallards. Most of us.
There was a girl in our class whose family had immigrated to the US from Laos. She did not paint her duck like a mallard. Her duck was a white duck with little blue feathers on the wings. In addition to her art skills being far superior to mine, her duck was completely beautiful. I was vey jealous. How come she got to paint her duck to be pretty? Why did hers get to be different? Why did she get to be creative?
Every time I see a picture of ducks in a Heifer or World Vision catalog, I think of the girl in my class. Those ducks look like her duck.
Someone, maybe even me in my head, muttered, “doesn’t she even know what a duck looks like?” We were the ones who didn’t know.