MamaBlogger365 – Her Eye on the Sparrow – a Thin Threads excerpt
The Gift of a Good Breakfast
By Annmarie Tait
This morning as I sipped my coffee and mused over the ritual of my daily “to do” list, a choir of sparrows in the back yard were holding a non-stop “chirp-a-thon” preventing even the slightest amount of concentration on my part. At first I was annoyed, but as their song continued I set my “to do” list aside and reveled in the sound of every little tweeter.
In the wee early hours over a steamy mug of coffee, the cheerful song of the sparrows carried me back to the little row house in Philadelphia where I grew up. This is where I first observed my mother’s dedication to the tiny little sparrows that nested in the neighborhood trees. Although I was a small child her kindness to these little creatures made an impression on me that has lasted through the years.
Back then my mother’s daily routine brimmed with chores. Keeping house and tending to a family of seven was a daunting responsibility indeed.Yet with all of the demands on her, Mom found the time every morning to make sure the sparrows ate breakfast. “It’s the most important meal of the day for sparrows too, and they depend on me”, she would say. As if the rest of us didn’t. Like any other kid my whole existence depended on Mom. Apparently so did the lives of a multitude of empty bellied sparrows who knew which back yard among rows and rows of back yards, had the good eats.
Every day as far back as I can remember Mom took the left over toast from breakfast and tore it into small pieces as she enjoyed her morning coffee and listened to the radio. Then once the breakfast dishes were done, Mom carried the bread out to the back porch and tossed it onto the grass one piece at a time. How she delighted in watching the sparrows glide in for a landing and then carry the small tidbits away. At the mere squeak of the back door hinge no matter the time of day or task at hand for Mom, the sparrows flew down from the trees and perched on the hairpin fence surrounding our yard just to keep her company and cheer her with a song. Whether she was hanging laundry on the line, picking tomatoes from the garden, or sweeping the porch, the little sparrows flew into formation and saluted her.
When we relocated from the city to the suburbs Mom cultivated a whole new flock of feathered friends in a back yard with no fence at all. Still the sparrows arrived every morning for breakfast and repaid Mom all day long singing to her as she came in out the back door taking care of daily chores. When a lone cardinal or blue jay showed up it was an absolute miracle in Mom’s eyes and a true reason for celebration. In such small gifts of nature my mother found the greatest joy.
After my dad passed away Mom moved into an apartment complex for seniors. On the very day she moved in even before we unpacked one single box, Mom insisted that we find our way to the back door of the building just so she would know where to take her bread cubes to feed the birds. And feed them she did every day for two years until we took her to the hospital and she never came home.
Wikipedia indicates that the average life span of a sparrow is five years. In her lifetime my mother raised five children and generation after generation of God’s humble little sparrows with a sprinkling of cardinals and blue jays for good measure.
My mother never was a list maker like me. She did not organize her activities down to the last detail as I so often do. She moved at a slow and steady pace tackling huge responsibility every day without ever leaving the sparrows or her family in the lurch.
I will never surrender my “to do” list but I know what will be the first item on it tomorrow and for all the days after that whether I’m merely busy or practically frantic. The sparrows deserve someone they can depend on and I owe it to them to follow in my mother’s footsteps. Breakfast the most important meal of the day you know. And, if by chance I should be lucky enough to spy a cardinal bird or blue jay, I will feel my mother’s warm spirit in the flutter of their tiny wings.
This essay is an excerpt of Thin Threads: Moms and Grandmas, compiled by Stacey K. Battat and Joy Rose (Kiwi Publishing, 2011). Click here to buy your copy for Mother’s Day gift-giving!