Of Love and Lanyards


Andy is home sick today. Around 5am he stumbled into our room hot to the touch and coughing. Poor love. Today he shall be showered with slushies and juice and bendy straws. And movies. Perhaps even the big box of crayons.

My ill little cub scout brings to mind a poem written by Billy Collins, former US poet laureate.

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 great part, my dear, sweet Andy, is that it is enough. Your genuine smile is enough. But don’t worry, if this poem were about me and my mother, the recurring phrase would probably be,

“And I gave you this blog.”


3 responses »

  1. I still have my lanyard, with attached whistle, from my days at Phantom Lake YMCA Camp in Wisconsin. My lanyard is in my key bowl in the office.

  2. And each post on this blog is a lanyard to me. I wear one a day and loudly show it off to my friends and stuff the rest in The Drawer-not The Junk Drawer, but the one reserved for Treasures! It is more than enough!

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