I'm finally putting away the junk from the summer, and of course that includes an unfinished lanyard ... something or other. Is it a slightly too long keychain? Slightly too short necklace?
Let's call it a memory aid. Because looking at it, I realize that everything I needed to know I learned in summer camp.
Or at least everything I needed to know about lanyard. Which, in turn, taught me everything else.
How so, you ask?
When you arrive at camp, a young and clumsy child, you are immediately in awe of all the older kids (9, 10, even 11) who can make amazing things with lanyard. Things like ... more lanyard, but thicker, and sort of box shaped. Or sometimes in a spiral. And keychains, of course. Also, sometimes, a lanyard lizard — ultracool. What these wizened weaving wizards have mastered seems all but unattainable to you, the younger camper, and what you dream of is the far-off day you may acquire even half their skills, dexterity and savoir-faire.
And then you get to be my age — or even 15 — and you realize: What? It's not like those kids mastered cold fusion, or even the backhand. They made a lanyard. So, Lanyard Lesson No. 1 is as simple as it is stunning: Don't envy other people.
At least, don't envy other people's lanyard skills. Or even backhands. (You can envy them a little if they stop global warming.)
Lanyard Lesson No. 2: What is valuable in one culture is not necessarily valuable in another.
Some people in France saute snails with garlic. We find them weird. (The French, that is. I'm sure the snails are fine.) Some people outside New York eat blueberry bagels. That is totally bizarre. And yet, to get along in this multiculti world, we must learn to respect one another's perspectives.
A good way to do this is to think about just how incredibly beautiful a lanyard necklace seemed at age 6 or 7. How sophisticated and alluring.
And think how it looks now.
See? Value is relative and culturally determined. (Surely lanyard taught you this lesson, too?)
Lanyard Lesson No. 3: The box stitch is a lot like life.
It's hard, it keeps getting messed up and, just when you're finally getting the hang of it, you run out. (This lesson is a harsh one, yes.)
Lanyard Lesson No. 4: Just like skin, the color of your lanyard really doesn't matter. (This one is deep!)
Lanyard Lesson No. 5: Honor thy father and mother.
They LOVED the lanyard thingy you made them — and they weren't even faking it. They kept it for years, just like they kept you! They are the wind beneath your keychain. Appreciate them.
Lanyard Lesson No. 6: Simple pleasures are the best.
Later on in life, you will learn how to run a Zoom conference, dance the tango and figure out which candidate to vote for without some serious misgivings. But will it be quite as sweet as braiding together four strands of flat nylon in the shade of a tree with your friends nearby and ticks nibbling on your shins?
Lanyard Lesson No. 7: Summer makes everything better. Even a pointless activity that would bore you to tears the rest of the year.
But at least you've got a new ... um ... keychain? Enjoy it!
Lenore Skenazy is president of Let Grow, founder of Free-Range Kids and author of "Has the World Gone Skenazy?" To learn more about Lenore Skenazy ([email protected]) and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.