The Lanyard

Yesterday, I went to see my son perform in his high school play, "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown." He plays Charlie Brown, a character so unlike AJ it's amazing that he pulled it off. AJ is unceasingly happy. Charlie Brown is chronically depressed. As I watched my son play his character, I saw him experience repeated calamities and catastrophes. He was teased by other characters. He failed at most everything he tried. As his mom, I felt myself getting so emotional at his distress that tears pricked my eyes. It was really his comical character's distress, but all I could see was my son, and I felt so sad for him, this cartoon character! Sometimes, being a mom is tough stuff!

Then last night, I opened an email from my dear friend Kim. She shared with me this beautiful poem that was read by her niece at the memorial service for her beloved sister-in-law, Marigrace.

If you are a mom or if you have a mom, you will relate:

"The Lanyard"
By Billy Collins

The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the pale blue walls of this room,
bouncing from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one more suddenly into the past --
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sickroom,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift--not the archaic truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hands,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Happy Mother's Day today and everyday to all you wonderful moms out there!


1 comment:

Mamma Donna said...

The Lanyard is powerful! I lost my Mom over 5 years ago, and I still cry missing her every day. I know that indebtedness that can never be repaid to her that was expressed in the poem. It blessed me. Can't wait to see AJ in Charlie Brown tomorrow night!
Donna B.