Lanyards and Love

The final day of September. The final day of Nablopomo. I was going to post about how 3 weeks into Kindergarten and Kaya already feels so much more grown up. I was going to show you some of her art, tell you some of her conversations to showcase my point.

But I have had a couple of glasses of wine and a slow computer and a 5th birthday party to plan for this weekend so I think I will leave that for another time.

Tonight, let me share a poem with you a friend who read my Waving Goodbye post on BlogHer shared with me.

The Lanyard – 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.

The truth being, one of the great miracles of life, is that those things, those lanyards, are truly enough to make us even. Because love is love, no matter the form or manifestation. Because at some point the child becomes the mother. Because unconditional is passed on to the next generation and next and next. Because that is life.

Mothers do not keep score. But when my child says to me

“Thank you mommy for all the help you give me. Like cleaning up my toys and bowls and stuff because sometimes I’m too busy to remember that and so you do that and thank you.”

and that comes with no prompting from a genuine place of gratitude, oh the heart fills, swells, explodes and there is never, never, a question that we are completely, absolutely even.


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