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The Lanyard

The other day, my new friend Piers told me I should send my memoir to our Prime Minister. “He’s a huge Beatles fan,” he said. “I sent him my book and he sent me a nice letter back.”
“Over my dead body,” I said.

Yesterday, I was on the 506 streetcar home from the Y when the driver turned on his mike and spoke to us all. “At the next stop,” he said, “when the new people get on, I want you to shout ‘Good afternoon, passengers!’ and applaud. Okay?” And we did, to great hilarity. Instantly, a streetcar was turned into a friendly if narrow and mobile neighbourhood gathering spot.

I haven’t told you some news – I’m going to take piano lessons again. When the piano tuner told me that there’s a piano teacher just up the street who specializes in adult learners, I took it as a sign from God and went to see him. Will start in October. Now I try to play a few times a week, very simple pieces from my youth. When I quit at 13, my mother told me I’d regret it for the rest of my life. You were right, Maman. Now making up for lost time. Just listened to Mozart’s piano concerto #23. It is to weep.

And then listened to a CD of Billy Collins reading his poems. Just played a few for my son, especially his hilarious, beautiful poem “Lanyard.” You should hear Billy read it; look for it. I wanted to hang onto this sublime moment: a sunny Saturday of a long weekend, the city quiet (except for the @#$# air show), the garden glorious, my son cooking a huge meal for us and Wayson, and the two of us stopping to listen to a great and funny poet. It doesn’t get better than this.

Good afternoon, passengers.

Spoke too soon. The big burner on the stove just broke and won’t stop clicking. It’s Saturday of a long weekend, and the stove is broken. Onward.

THE LANYARD
The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the 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 sick room,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold facecloths on my forehead
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-toned 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

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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