Monday, May 9, 2011

A poem for Mother's Day

No, not my poem. But one that conveys the mysteries of motherhood and the depth of a mother's sacrifice. And it's funny to boot.

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.

There may never be a "making even" (and really, no mom wants or expects that) but as a mother I now know and cherish the gifts that, while simple, come from the heart. Like the buckets full of apple blossom petals and dandelions that were hand-gathered all afternoon and came complete with the satisfied giggling and ear to ear smiles of a job well done. And the gift of time that my mother gave me as we slowly climbed to the top of a waterfall, talking and laughing all the while.

I hope that my mothers and grandmothers and friend's mothers and mother-friends felt celebrated and loved on Mother's Day. I thank each one of you for the ways in which you've taught me, inspired me, and walked along side me and continue to mother your children well, even when they're grown :)


Lisa said...

I loved this, Jess! What a special day with your girlies and with your momma. XOXO