Saturday, January 27, 2018

Victory Line

Harding University Petit Jean 1979-1980.

Come on, y’all!
Come on out to the victory line!
That’s what the cheerleaders were telling us
So, we moved onto the field
and formed a couple of parallel lines—
a loose chain of humans, facing one another
straighter than you might imagine
because we were good at this

It all began in the end zone
and stretched for about 30 yards
if not farther
where a gigantic paper banner hung between 2 tall poles
Strong members of the Pep Club
held onto those poles for dear life
because in just a few minutes
the high school football team
would come rushing between us
and crash through that banner
which symbolized,
as we all knew,
the way we were going to smash our opponents

And as we waited just a little bit longer
the cheerleaders led us
in more clapping and shouting and stomping
until the team finally appeared

And then we just went crazy

So that by the time the players had run by
and demolished the sign
and we’d made our way back to the stands
well, we were a little bit spent
and our throats were raw

but it was worth it

to stand side by side
and fully give our hearts
in celebration of something bigger than ourselves
It was almost spiritual in a way
or maybe it was truly spiritual
on that field
in that community
on a football Friday night.

Harding College Petit Jean 1971-1972.

Harding College Petit Jean 1974-1975.

Harding College Petit Jean 1977-1978.

Harding University Petit Jean 1982-1983.

Harding University Petit Jean 1983-1984.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

At the dude ranch …

At the dude ranch …
One spring break, our family traveled to a dude ranch
and late one afternoon, as we were finishing up a long and dusty ride
the cowboy in front turned around and said
Well, we can take this here trail, which will get us back in about 15 minutes
or we can take that one over there, which will have us back in 45
and Kate and Cal and I said, in unison
The 15-minute trail!
And Cheryl, at almost the same instant, said
Let’s do the 45-minute one!

At Walt Disney World …
Another time, our family spent a week in Orlando
devoting an entire day to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom
We arrived when the gates opened
and frolicked until dark
and as we slowly shuffled our way down Main Street toward the exit
Cheryl made us stop for a photo and said
Who wants to ride Space Mountain one more time?

In Paris …
We spent a whole day walking around Paris
from our hotel to the Notre Dame and Louvre
from the Eiffel Tower back to our hotel
Miles and miles
and then, finally, after settling in to a comfortable chair
with my aching feet propped up on a footstool
Cheryl says
How about we go to a souvenir shop and pick out some things for my students?

You see … in the end
We did not choose the 45-minute trail
and we did not ride Space Mountain one more time
but Cheryl and I did go out to a souvenir shop and see Paris at night

and it was one of the most memorable evenings of our lives

Do you know someone
who tries to squeeze an extra 30 minutes of joy out of every single day?
Well …
I hope you do.

At the dude ranch

Monday, November 27, 2017

After the preaching

Photo on
After the preaching
and the invitation song
and the standing in the foyer and shaking everyone’s hands
and telling toddlers, “Well hello, Pumpkin” and pinching their cheeks
After the local preacher or elder turns off all the lights
we—Dad and me—
get into the car and drive back to the motel
where we park
and walk over to a dimly lit corridor

It is well past my bedtime, but we stop at a vending machine to buy a couple of Dr. Peppers
This will be our treat at the end of a long day

And standing in that corridor, far from home
surrounded by shadows
in a lonely motel
I am not afraid, because my father is there
He is strong
and He will take care of me. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Big Sis

One of my earliest memories of my big sister Cindy is this …

I’m standing on the back patio, in my sock feet, playing some sort of game where the patio is a safe place and all the surrounding area is dangerous

The grass is not really grass, but it is fire or water or something like that

And the problem is, it’s time for me to go back inside, but I “can’t” because I’d have to cross over the grass

And then Cindy comes out, and I explain the situation to her

And she doesn’t roll her eyes

And she doesn’t say, “That’s dumb”

She just picks me up and carries me around the house and into the carport where the ground is safe

I think about this story now …

As I’ve watched my big sis, over the course of the past several years, “carry” our parents

Take care of them

Meet even their most basic needs

And I can say …

I’m not surprised

No, I’m not surprised one bit.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

3 brothers and 2 sisters

Mom had 3 brothers and 2 sisters
a good-sized family
at least, that’s how I always thought of it

The oldest sibling being Melvin
who had a bad back, but a wonderful sense of humor
Plain-speaking is how I'd describe him
“Why I wouldn’t name a dog Francis,” he once said
which was funny, because Melvin’s first name was Francis
and it was his father’s name as well

And next there was Pete
whose real name was Estel
a form of Estella, which was his mother’s name
Pete was a successful businessman
who carried a plastic change purse in his pocket
and he was always generous with his nickels and dimes
I learned to tie my shoes in Uncle Pete’s home

And then there’s Marciele
Sweet Aunt Marciele
who lived the longest of the bunch
She was strong in spirit and faith
That’s how I remember her
And she had a garden and a tower in her back yard
yes, a tower
I will show you a picture, if you don’t believe me

And Jim
I thought of him as quiet and kind
a mailman who did some farming too
I rode in a big tractor with Uncle Jim
I don’t think I’ve ever done that with anyone else

And Madge
who I saw more than the others
because she lived only 50 miles down the road
She’d invite us over for holidays and such
and there was always plenty of food
and Razorbacks sports watching
and laughter
She beat cancer and taught music
and had 6 children
and so many grandkids and great grandkids
that you couldn’t even count them

And coming back to Mom
Marilyn, the youngest
as sweet as the day is long
I miss them all, but I miss her most
She loved Jesus, this I know
and her family
every one of them
from Kansas to Oklahoma to Arkansas
and wherever the world had carried us

Pete, Marilyn, Madge, Melvin, Marciele, and Jim

Monday, August 28, 2017

Aunt Madge

When I was 14 or 15
my mom
and her sister Madge
decided to take my cousin Jon and me
to Kansas for a family visit

500 miles to get there, by car
and 500 miles back
and for some reason the sisters
Marilyn and Madge
decided to let Jon and me do all of the driving
All of it
I didn't even have my license yet
Only a learner's permit

And on the way back from Kansas
on a long and dry stretch of highway
with me planted behind the wheel
Mom decided to take a little nap
and I felt myself getting a little drowsy as well
and the drowsier I got
the heavier my foot weighed on the pedal
until Aunt Madge spoke up from the backseat
with a voice that sounded like a smile
"Michael, don't you think we're going a little fast?"
And looking down, I noticed the speedometer needle
approaching 80
so I slowed down
Way down

And that day was a reminder for me
that if, for some reason
Mom couldn't be around
there was another "mom" standing by
who was ready to protect and love me as well.

Marilyn and Madge

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Poem for my mom ... by Cheryl Allen

You look beautiful in that cancer bed
next to the IV stand

One of your best brave faces
sticking up above the warmed blankets
tucked under your chin

Wearing make-up
and an armful of delicate bracelets

Commenting “the nurses
must have to take a sweetness test
to work here”

Handling the whole situation
with courage and grace.