Memories of Mum and Sparrows

Last month when I began preparing what I’d write for Mum today, I read some of her diary entries and some of the things she’d copied into her bible, and it became clear:  Sparrows!  

Her favourite poet, Wordsworth, wrote “The Sparrow’s Nest” which she’d cited many times and her favourite hymn was “God Sees the Little Sparrow Fall”.  Sparrows for Mothers’ Day, then. 

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White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)

Throughout mythology, Sparrows symbolize creativity, simplicity, productivity, companionship, happiness and hope – perfect for my mum and for many others besides.  But then I found the Wordsworth treasury, read the full poem and I understood its magic.

The Sparrow’s Nest

This poem seems to be mostly about Mr. Wordsworth viewing his world from a child’s (his sister’s) point of view.  In the final lines (below) Mr. Wordsworth seems to be acknowledging the blessing she was to him and that it was Dorothy (described as Emmeline in the poem) who taught him to act with kindness and love:

“She gave me eyes, she gave me ears;
And humble cares, and delicate fears;
A heart, the fountain of sweet tears;
        And love, and thought, and joy.”*

Like his Dorothy, my mum was a blessing to me and it was Mum who taught me to act with kindness and love.  (Yup, work in progress.)

When I think of my mum and of all the lessons she taught me, to have humble cares, and delicate fears is exactly what she always wanted for me.  Actually, humble cares perfectly describes her and how she lived her life. ‘Though I am constantly striving for this ideal, she lived it every day.  

God Sees The Little Sparrow Fall 

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“God sees the little sparrow fall,
it meets his tender view;
if God so loves the little birds,
I know he loves me too.”**

Mum’s love affair with the children’s hymn God Sees The Little Sparrow Fall began when I was six, my first year in the junior choir at Zion Wexford United Church.  This many years later, I’ve no idea what the occasion was but six of us were chosen to sing it on the chancel steps at both the early and late services one Sunday morning.  Barb Heys, Nadine Guthrie, Carol Thompson, Elizabeth Horney, Margaret Speed and me. There’s a picture of us somewhere, robed and resplendent in angelic glory. Mr. Rhunke, the organist, had a piano brought into the church and accompanied us on it, knowing the huge pipe organ would have drowned us out.  When she was leading us, Mrs. Kean stood quite far back from us – three or four good strides down the aisle – so that the doting parents could have an unobstructed view.  There was nary a dry eye in the house, or so I’ve been told – many times. After that morning, kiddie hymn or not, it was Mum’s absolute favourite and remained so her entire life.

One of the things I’m most grateful for in this life is the innocence, security and endless love of my childhood. Our home was a haven of peace, free from divorce, addiction, and domestic violence. I was sheltered from all of that thanks to Mum who, with her special heart, the fountain of sweet tears; and constant love, and thought, and joy, protected and cherished me at all costs.

I definitely won the parental lottery and I’m never more acutely aware of my good fortune than on Mothers’ Day.  

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Happy Mothers’ Day, Mummy!  I love you dearly.

‘Til next time, y’all…

*William Wordsworth, “The Sparrow’s Nest” (full text below) from Collected Poems of William Wordsworth
Mr. Wordsworth was a favourite of my mum; his poems (and quotes from them) are scattered throughout her journals and in her bible.  On one trip to the UK, at her insistence, we went to visit Rydal Mount and Gardens (Wordsworth’s home) in the Lake District. We were not able to have a tour, but dad took loads of pictures, especially of Mum in front of the house.  Such a shame, really, but I don’t remember much else about that day or the property.  Remarkably, 170 years after his death, the homestead is still owned by the Wordsworth family.   

**Maria Straub

The Sparrow’s Nest 

Behold, within the leafy shade,
Those bright blue eggs together laid!
On me the chance-discovered sight
Gleamed like a vision of delight.
I started—seeming to espy
The home and sheltered bed,
The Sparrow’s dwelling, which, hard by
My Father’s house, in wet and dry
My sister Emmeline and I
Together visited.

She looked at it and seemed to fear it;
Dreading, tho’ wishing, to be near it:
Such heart was in her, being then
A little Prattler among men.
The Blessing of my later years
Was with me when a boy:
She gave me eyes, she gave me ears;
And humble cares, and delicate fears;
A heart, the fountain of sweet tears;
And love, and thought, and joy.
[William Wordsworth]

God Sees The Little Sparrow Fall 

God sees the little sparrow fall,
it meets his tender view;
if God so loves the little birds,
I know he loves me too.

He loves me too, he loves me too,
I know loves me too;
because he loves the little things,
I know loves me too.

He paints the lily of the field,
perfumes each lily bell;
if he so loves the little flow’rs,
I know he loves me well.

He loves me too, he loves me too,
I know loves me too;
because he loves the little things,
I know loves me too.

God made the little birds and flow’rs,
and all things large and small;
he’ll not forget his little ones,
I know he loves them all.

He loves me too, he loves me too,
I know loves me too;
because he loves the little things,
I know loves me too.
[Maria Straub]

4 thoughts on “Memories of Mum and Sparrows

  1. Hi Pamela, I did not know the symbolism surrounding sparrows. This is a beautiful dedication to your Mom. The branch does not fall far from the tree. She would have loved this story. Being raised in a “haven of peace” is a wonderful gift to give to a child. And you honour it here. A beautiful post!

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