In honour of Mother’s Day…
by Billy Collins
The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when 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 into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long 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 sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid 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 worn truth
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
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.
Ok that’s great. “And here is your lanyard!”
I must send that to my mom!!
I didn’t get a lanyard but I did get a rather nice card with googly eyes on it from C. It’s hard to upstage googly eyes ya know? 😉
Simon’s teacher had them all tape themselves reading Love You Forever! They would ding one of those little bell hop bells every time you were supposed to turn the page.
Yes. I cried.
I’ve been on a Billy Collins kick lately, and I adore this poem.
Now I want a lanyard…
Not really. I got cards from the boys saying reasons why I was a great mom:
Casey: “I love my mom because she lets me play games.”
Riley: My mom is great because she tells me about Buffalo and she’s going to take me to Golden Gate Park to see the buffaloes there.”