Recently, James Witmer included a wonderful post from his wife, Julie, in the Story Warren drafts and I was delighted to publish it. Today, it’s my own very beautiful wife’s turn. You may think I’m just posting it because I turn out to be the hero in the end. Maybe. Who’s denying it? Or maybe it’s the moms who are the real heroines. <waits for applause> You decide. Ladies and germs, I present: Gina Smith. –Sam
“Here, listen to this.” My husband said to me as we got into the car for a drive. The kids were with us and we had a ways to go.
Sigh… “Is it words?” I asked sarcastically. I love being part of his world, but if there’s one thing that puts me instantly to sleep or sends me spiraling into a world of daydreams, it’s listening to audio books. I just cannot focus when the reading begins. Come on, husband. Don’t you know me at all? I prefer music in the car.
He rolled his eyes and said, “Yes, it’s words. But just listen.”
Poetry, no less. Oh dear. I’m drifting, drifting. But then…I giggle. I’m hooked. It was Billy Collins. Here’s one in particular that my mother’s heart could relate to. I’m posting the video so you can get the full effect. (I think it’s a real treat to hear it read by the poet. Then you know exactly how it should sound.)
I guess he does know me a little.
(You can skip the ad by clicking the bottom right of the video after 5 miserable seconds.)
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.