Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Potholders for My Mother

The Lanyard by 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.

Now that Mother's Day is over, I can show you the potholders I made for my mother to match her kitchen colors and replace some grease-blackened ones. As padding, I used two squares of worn denim with a layer of batting sandwiched inbetween. I want to ask Mom in a few weeks if that's a good weight and flexibility for hotpads.

Tomorrow, The Dessert from Mother's Day!


Rebecca said...

This is one of my all time favorite poems. Perfect for M.D.

Rachel said...

love the poem!
and i just made some potholders, too. i used two squares of an old towel. again, not sure if it's enough or not. guess we'll see!

Beth said...

What a great poem...very touching. And the potholders are pretty.

Rebecca said...

Hi Rachel! I made a bunch of pot holders with two layers of old towel and they work a treat. They're my favorites, if not the most beautiful in the drawer. No heat gets through them and I can pitch 'em in the wash at any time. -Rebecca

Sylvia said...

I love the poem! And the potholders. And yes, Rebecca, the potholders made from old towels are great, with joy being the added benefit of working up your old scraps.

Rebecca said...

Hi Aunt Sylvia! And Margo, not to excite stash envy, but A. S. has several giant rolls of bias binding in PRINTS! That's what she puts around her pot holders.