September 03, 2009



Four years ago, With-a-Why made me a lanyard with red and blue boondoggle. I’ve had it on my keychain ever since. Every time I pick up my keys, I glance at the bright colours and think of my youngest son.

This morning, a friend put a link on facebook to a youtube clip of poet Billy Collins reading his poem “The Lanyard.” (Go ahead, click on the link and listen to the poem. Then come back and read the rest of the post.)

Tonight when I was watching the clip, With-a-Why came into my room to see what I was listening to. He’s got one evening in which to do an entire summer’s worth of homework so of course he was looking for ways to procrastinate. He’d already asked for my help, and I’d refused.

“Yeah, I read Huck Finn in grad school,” I told him. “But I’ve got nothing to say about it.” (Lest this makes me sound mean, I should add that if he was the kind of kid who honestly needed some help, I would have helped him. But he’s completely capable of doing the work on his own.)

With-a-Why climbed onto the bed, snuggling up against me. I shifted my laptop to make room for him, and we watched the video clip together. He smiled during the poem, but said nothing.

I asked, “Did you like the poem?”

He said, “I think you should help me with this stupid writing assignment.”

He put an arm around me, his head rubbing against my shoulder affectionately.
“After all, I did give you a lanyard.”


sko3 said...

A friend's oldest watched the clip with her, and her response was, "whatever happened to that lanyard I made for you?"

Songbird said...

That is fantastic, the poem and your story.

Bardiac said...

LOL, I love that poem. Collins is brilliant!

What's the boondoggle bit? I've never heard of that refering to something real.

jo(e) said...

The strips of red and blue plastic that the lanyard is made out of? That's what we always called boondoggle. It's sold in craft stores, and kids weave it together to make lanyards. I don't know if it has any other use.

Jenevieve said...

When I was in undergrad, double majoring in biology and English, my English advisor asked me one morning what I wanted to do in life.

"Well," I said, caught in the honesty with which unexpected questions early in the morning occasionally inspires in me, "I'd like to be a veterinarian. But I'd rather be Billy Collins."

I still wish that.

Magpie said...

They do worm their way into your heart, don't they?

kathy a. said...

oh, that is a wonderful poem! i have a lanyard around here someplace... i think it is in the jewelry box made of a round oatmeal carton, covered in red construction paper and penciled flowers, with pipe-cleaner and bead flourishes.

YourFireAnt said...

We made lanyards and sold them door to door to our neighbors, who very kindly bought and praised them.


p.s. Jo(e) we called them "boondoggles".


Madeleine said...

We call it gimp. I have no idea why.

liz said...

Another vote for gimp. That's what Camp Onas called it.

Bardiac said...

Cool. When I was little, my dad did some leather work, made the occasional purse and such, tooled the leather, and then sewed it on the edges with leather threading that looked a lot like boondoggle except it wasn't plastic and it was dyed whatever color would go with the leather he was working. I know he called it something else, but I can't remember right now what he called it.

Anonymous said...