I’m Sorry Mom..and Thanks Again

Posted: Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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"Geeze, it sure would be nice if we could hear how we sounded," my cousin said after a 1961 practice session at our house. With our electric guitars cranked high, we’d spend hours trying to figure out the right chords and correct Everly Brothers harmony for the latest rock and roll hit songs.
"I hear Larsen’s Music in Lake Preston has a tape recorder for a hundred bucks," Grouse said.  "Oh, man that would be great, let’s see if we can get it," I replied."It’s not going to be "we," said Grouse, I’m still making payments on my Fender guitar that I bought from Larsen..a guitar that "you" wound up playing more than me.""Alright, I’ll ask mom if she’ll co-sign for the thing," I said. It turned out to be a typical whining beg fest, but mom finally gave in on my promise that I would make the payments.. not having a clue as to where I’d get the money. It turned out to be one of many promises I would fail to deliver on in my youth.
I just came across the receipt for that tape recorder while going through some old boxes the other day.
I’d like to say that tape recorder was a big help in establishing a major foothold in our rise to rock and roll stardom  but, in fact, we used it mainly for clowning around. We’d invite friends over and record reel after reel of silly voices, fart sounds and uncontrolled laughter but very little of us rehearsing. On one tape you can actually hear me yelling something unkind to my mom in the other room..the same mother who scrimped and saved so I could have that stupid machine in the first place. I know..it’s not uncommon for 15 year old boys to say and do regrettable things to their moms but I wish there was a way to let her know just how sorry I am for being such an unappreciative teenage jerk. I must have felt a little bad for not always treating her with the respect she deserved. In that same box  I found this note I’d written to her (probably in Sunday School) around  the same time.That rather generic note reminded me of a wonderful poem by Billy Collins that says it much better.
The LanyardBilly CollinsThe other day I was ricocheting slowlyoff 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 dictionarywhere my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.
No cookie nibbled by a French novelistcould send one into the past more suddenly—a past where I sat at a workbench at a campby a deep Adirondack lakelearning how to braid long thin plastic stripsinto a lanyard, a gift for my mother.
I had never seen anyone use a lanyardor wear one, if that’s what you did with them,but that did not keep me from crossingstrand over strand again and againuntil I had made a boxyred 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 tookthe two-tone lanyard from my hand,I was as sure as a boy could bethat this useless, worthless thing I woveout of boredom would be enough to make us even.Happy Mother’s Day!
If you’d like to see and hear Billy Collins reading The Lanyard, click here.*A footnote: Be sure and check out Hemmingsen’s Friday blog on what would have been his mom’s 99th. birthday. It’s a tremendous tribute to her and a rare glimpse into Steve’s family. 

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