For my family, a “staycation” is code for many things. It’s code for, we can’t afford a vacation right now. It’s also code for, we will stay in the cold and snowy, damp and dark Chicago winter instead of soaking in the warmth of the ocean and eating tacos at the condo in PV. A staycation is code for we will all be home together. All. Home. Together. It’s a code which says to the three teenagers in the house there are no time restrictions on your phone because your parents to have to work. It may even be a code for let’s go out at the spur of the moment and see a play or a movie, go for dinner, or take a walk in the middle of the day. A staycation is code for there will be lots of arguments, fights, and yelling in the house for the next two weeks + because we are all in the house with nothing much to do.
We are nearing the end of our first winter-break staycation in over a decade. Last night, after cooking and serving yet another family dinner, I sat down at the table and was about to announce that I felt neither appreciated nor respected when one of the kids blurts out, “Let’s go around the table and share what we are happy or grateful about.” And we do. And I am on everyone’s list. Staycation is code for we don’t have to travel far in order to appreciate the power of our family.
School Starts on Tuesday.
The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room
bouncing from typewriter to piano
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
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 more suddenly into the past.
A past where I sat at a workbench
at a camp by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid 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 teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold facecloths on my forehead
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 archaic truth,
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took the two-toned lanyard from my hands,
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.’