About two months ago, Avery and I bought a package of neon colored plastic string. It looked like a package of plasticized linguine on psychotropics. Yum. Avery had spent the winter months learning all sorts of handicrafts - cross stitch, crochet, knitting, weaving, friendship bracelets. It was time to branch out, learn a new craft. Lanyard making fit the bill. I don't remember making lanyards when I was a kid, so Avery and I learned together. She went on to teach her friends how to make them. It's amazing to watch the student become the teacher. Here she is, with two friends, weaving away a hot summer afternoon.
George brought this poem to my attention after hearing it on NPR. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
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.
(Billy Collins was U.S. Poet Laureate from 2001 through 2003. He's been the New York State Poet Laureate since January 2004.)
It's true, our kids will never be able to give us a gift equal to the gift of being their parent.