Mother, May I?

HPIM7503 Not long ago I was gifted with the pleasure of hearing Billy Collins wryly read his poem about fashioning a plastic lanyard to present to his mother:

“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. . . .

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.”

At camp and at elementary school my brothers and I were instructed to use our fingers to form lumpy low-grade clay into ashtrays for parents who did not smoke.  Had that particular craft project persisted into my children’s generation, as a mom I no doubt would have held on to the ashtrays, too.

At school we dutifully used our Crayola crayons to make Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cards.

I wondered even then how these exercises made children feel if they had no mother or father.

“You could make one for your grandmother,” I heard Miss Marsh tell one small classmate who had approached her desk.  I mentally filled in the rest of the conversation.

Billy Collins’ poem noted “the worn truth that you can never repay your mother,” but of course it’s never truly a question of repayment: whatever the connection that makes true mothering possible, it doesn’t create a debt–though we moms treasure those tokens because of the hearts which created them.

Magically, though, mothering as it is meant to be done creates bottomless love.   It’s the classic win-win.

Three of my friends, all mothers themselves now, have lost their mothers in the last two weeks.  I believe with all my heart that they are not motherless, that their mothers will continue to be with them as surely as my children will always have their father.



Author: Stephanie

In her spare time, Stephanie works full-time, and then some, as an attorney. She has published articles and delivered talks in arcane fields like forensic evidentiary issues, jury instructions, and expert scientific witness preparation. She attended law school near the the banks of the Charles River and loves that dirty water; she will always think of Boston as her home. You are welcome to take a look at her Facebook author page, or follow @SMartinGlennon on Twitter and @schnitzelpond on Instagram. Bonus points for anyone who understands the Instagram handle. All content on this blog, unless otherwise attributed, is (c) 2012-2023 by Stephanie M. Glennon and should not be reproduced (in any form other than re-blogging in accordance with the wee Wordpress buttons at the bottom of each post) without the express permission of the domain holder.

9 thoughts on “Mother, May I?”

  1. My mother keeps a paper chain from a birthday party I gave her. I instructed the gathered family members to write something they appreciate about her on strips of colored paper, then stapled them together. The win-win is acknowledging love. I keep this practice in phone conversations with my children; thanking them for calling, telling them how proud I am of the people they’re becoming.

    1. I need to do more of that, actively telling my children and others how much I admire them and their kindness and strength. That paper chain is definitely a keeper. One of my children, as a kindergartener, brought home a Mother’s Day creation with flower petals telling me how well I did things. . . including, somewhat hysterically, cooking 🙂

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