anne_mikolay_2012_120People tell me I'm for the birds. It's true. I am. I love God's feathered creatures; my Mom taught me to care for them. 

When I was a little girl, my mother gave me stale bread crusts to toss into the yard for the birds. She and I then stood at the back door and watched as sparrows, blue-jays, and robins swooped down and devoured every last crumb. In my pre-kindergarten days, my mother took me to the Five & Dime and let me choose my very first pet, a little, green budgie I named “Pepe.” I well remember my excitement, and just as clearly recall my mother running around our apartment trying to catch Pepe after he escaped his cage. Fast forward many years to my nineteenth birthday when my mother accompanied me to the pet store to help me pick out a precious, blue budgie. I tucked the budgie's cardboard carrier into my coat, and my mother and I walked home. She knew how much I loved the birds, and she shared my joy. Fast forward several more years, and my mother tenderly buried my budgie for me on the day my beloved pet died.

My mother taught me to sing. On rainy afternoons, we sang “Baa Baa Black Sheep” together; her voice was beautiful, and I loved listening to her. She sang all the time...while she cooked, cleaned, did the dishes. Mom loved buying new curtains and rearranging furniture. I can't count the times I returned from school to find the kitchen re-configured or a new bedspread and curtains in my bedroom. My mother liked knick-knacks and pictures hanging on the wall. Throughout my childhood, a picture of a guardian angel hovering protectively over two small children on a treacherous bridge hung on the wall beside my bed. I spent many early morning hours contemplating that picture. My mother taught me about angels and told me God assigns each one of us a special guardian. Some folks dismiss this claim as myth; I don't. I believe it.

My mother taught me to pray. To please her, I memorized my first prayers, “Now I lay me down to sleep...” and “Angel of God, my guardian dear...” She introduced me to the Catholic saints: St. Francis, keeper of the animals, of course, and St. Therese, the little flower. My very first book was about St. Therese. My mother, like Therese, was a vivid example of a Christian life well lived.

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My mother, Anne Duffy, would have been 80 years old this week

My mother taught me all sorts of little things: how to bake a cake and lick the spoon, how to make “ice-box” cake from graham crackers and pudding, how to tie my shoes, to braid my hair, to hem my skirts, how to make a household budget and stick to it, how to hold my tongue when angry and summon patience, how to make a good cup of tea, how to swaddle an infant, how to love a child, how to turn to God when lost, which I did when my mother passed away nineteen years ago.

If my mother had lived, we would be commemorating her 80th year this week. I often wonder what she would have been like as a senior citizen. No doubt, she would still love a good cup of tea with a Yankee Doodle and would continue to selflessly dedicate herself to her husband and her daughters and their families.

This week, I celebrate my mother and all she taught me. The world is diminished without her, but the heavens are brighter. Because of my mother, I am who I am and firmly believe the little things are big things that matter.