The Gifts of Mothers
It’s a really hard Mother’s Day for me. Don’t want to get into why. Suffice it to say that it’s a continuation of my mental landslide . . .
What She Taught Me
She taught me linking verbs, predicate nouns,
long division, have a Kleenex ready, an apple
a day. She taught me three-quarter time, Greenwich
Mean Time. She taught me do re mi, Mexicali Rose,
Rose, Rose, my Rose of San Antone. She taught me
Peas Peas Peas Peas, Eating Goober Peas.
She taught me that a peanut is a goober pea
in certain parts of the world, that it is fine
for things to be different in different parts
of the world, no two goobers alike in their
dry red skins, their pock-marked pods,
that there are latitudes and longitudes we have
never seen, that she had seen some part,
and so would I, that I need not
forego either the swings or baseball, that spelling
is on Friday and it is OK to learn more
than one list, including the hard list; it is not
showing off—it is using what you have.
That using what you have will not please
everybody, that marrying a man of a different stripe
is not a popular thing in a small town in the fifties,
and divorcing and coming home with a child
is even worse, and that you
get up every morning anyway,
and do your work.
~ Marjorie Saiser
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.
~ Billy Collins
Music by Vancouver Sleep Clinic, “Vapour”