Category: Holidays

May Day, 1971

Another May Day has come and gone without dancing around a Maypole. But there was a day. Oh yes, there was a day. . . .

It was May 1st, 1971, and I was in 3rd grade at Burnt Chimney Elementary School in Wirtz, Virginia, site of many an early childhood nightmare memory. We were all gussied up in our spring best for the school’s annual May Day celebration. My teacher Mrs. English, a dour schoolmarm with wrinkled skin who believed that Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was an elaborate NASA hoax, paced and frowned from the sideline.

All our parents were there, too, not just the stay-at-home moms, but also the dads who somehow got the day off from their jobs even though it was the middle of the week and were now standing there with their space-age Bell & Howell 8mm home movie cameras ready to capture the moment.… Read the rest

How Mary Nell’s Handbell Got Saved

Jesus said to “Love they neighbor” and “thy enemy.” But what do you do when the person who lives next door to you is both?

I guess there aren’t any special dispensations for that scenario. You’re just supposed to suck it up and go. When it came to Mary Nell, our neighbor from 1995-2011, we tried–and failed–over and over and over.

We first met Mary Nell in August 1995 when we stopped by Corley Drive to check out the 10-year-old brick rancher with the huge backyard that had just gone on the market.

Well, “met” only if you count a dried-up prune of a little old lady glaring at you through window blinds as a “meeting.”… Read the rest

A Major Breach in the Britches, Leap Year 1972

Today is February 29, Leap Year 2012. This is also the week that pro football wannabes are showing off their physical skills in the NFL Combine. Put the two together, and you come up with a traumatic, cringe-inducing, early childhood memory.

It was the spring of 1972, another Leap Year, and I was in Ms. Traylor’s 4th grade class at Burnt Chimney Elementary School in Wirtz, Virginia. We were on the playground finishing up the last event of our biannual physical fitness tests–the broad jump. I was on the line, waiting my turn.

“Go ahead, jump!” Ms. Traylor called out. I swung my arms in rhythm–one, two, three–and then crouched low, like a panther set to pounce…

The previous fall, I had failed every one of my physical fitness tests.… Read the rest

Coefficient of Friction

A former college professor of mine at Harding, Dr. Joe Pryor, was famous for his bow ties and his nerdy (and charming) way of saying things.

Whenever it snowed or iced in Searcy, Arkansas and the sidewalks around campus grew slick, he would stand behind the podium during chapel and declare, in his best Ben Stein “Ferris Beuller” economics teacher monotone, “Be careful walking around campus today; the coefficient of friction is extremely low.”

I thought of him last Sunday when the coefficient of friction on the roads near my birthplace in southwest Virginia suddenly dropped to near zero. It started snowing that morning, not hard, but enough to capture the attention of my sister’s two curious cats, Twinky and Zinger, who sat on their haunches and stared out the patio window watching the flakes fall.… Read the rest

Homeless Hank’s Christmas Miracle Turkey

I smelled it long before I saw it. You’ve seen those cartoons where the character catches a whiff of a powerful, pleasant odor and suddenly rises off the ground, borne along by the fumes like a slave in chains. That was me, right before lunchtime a couple of days ago in my clinic.

I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter. I’m used to the pungent odor of burned popcorn coming from the break room microwave, but this was different; more like Sunday brunch at the Ritz. It was deep brown, slightly crispy on the outside, moist and tender on the inside, seasoned with just the right amount of rosemary, garlic and basil.… Read the rest

The Family Holiday Newsletter (1996[?]-2011)

The Family Holiday Newsletter died yesterday. It was born in December, 1996 when the Family Sons were ages seven, five and three. It may have been before then, but there were no files older than 1996 on the 500GB external hard drive.

It had been on life support for some time, but since this is the third year running that it has failed to make an appearance, the Family finally said their tearful goodbyes and pulled the plug. The newsy, bulleted, Family Holiday Newsletter was one of those “brag sheets” that were de rigueur for “parents of a certain age,” thirty and forty-somethings whose prodigy kids composed symphonies at age five, set age records in the marathon at age seven and cured cancer at age nine.… Read the rest

Is There a Doctor in Da House?

The answer is: Yes. In fact, he’s been “in da house” since Monday. Sick. Out of commission. Down for the count.

It didn’t used to be that way. In my younger doctor days, I would often work through “the crud” because I was convinced that I was indispensable and that my patients would go blind if I wasn’t in the office. So I would trudge in, snot dripping, coughing, wheezing and croaking from the inevitable laryngitis that would set in after a few days. I was careful and often wore a mask, but still, put yourself in my patients’ shoes. I had no trouble getting my patients to open their eyes on days like that.… Read the rest

Dust In The Wind

I close my eyes
Only for a moment and the moment’s gone
All my dreams
Pass before my eyes a curiosity

Dust in the wind
All they are is dust in the wind.

“Dust in the Wind,” Kansas, 1977

Ash Wednesday always makes me think of dust (that’s the point, after all). And I can’t think of dust without thinking of Bobby.

Bobby was one of my best friends at church growing up. He, David and I were either The Three Musketeers or The Three Stooges, depending on who you asked. We often hung out on the elevated front porch of the Roanoke Church of Christ overlooking Brandon Avenue near the “Established in 33 AD” sign.… Read the rest

Words Fitly Spoken

but no human can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

–James 3:8

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The first time I read that verse was on a the cover of a tract which had been left behind on a shelf inside the pulpit at the Roanoke Church of Christ in the 1960s. We kids weren’t supposed to be playing there, but the adults were too busy talking to notice and the prospect of discovering what mysteries were hidden behind that “holy of holies” was too tempting to pass up.

The tract was fire-engine red and had an animation on the cover depicting a man with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, like a dimply red carpet unfurled.… Read the rest

Christmas Ice

I’ve slid off icy roads twice in my life. In each case it was around Christmas time and my mother was involved.

The first time was shortly after Christmas 1977. She and I were driving to Roanoke in a blue, 1972 Chevy Impala sedan, heavy as an elephant, but rear wheel drive. Most likely we were aiming to exchange some presents or burn up some gift cash at a post-Christmas sale.

I had my learner’s permit, and we had just covered “steering into the skid” in my driver’s ed lecture. I was eager to convert all that theory to some practical experience on the fresh veneer of slick, blue ice which covered the roads around our house and glistened invitingly in the mid-morning winter sun.… Read the rest

A Church of Christer’s Guide To Communion At An Episcopal Church

Recently a Church of Christ friend of mine wrote to me and said that he was considering attending an Episcopal Church Christmas Eve service and that he was a little intimidated by the prospect of having to walk forward and take communion. Could I help out?

Oh yes. Yes I can. Glad you asked.

First off, let me say this: Dude’s got guts. Most Church of Christers I know have never even set foot inside another church except for weddings and funerals. Some may have been taught that “they’re it” and if there’s nobody else out there, why bother? Or even if they don’t believe that, they still feel as if they might be betraying their parents or now deceased relatives by even associating with other “religious people” Christians in an actual spiritual context, as opposed to something more secular and therefore safer like, say, a NASCAR race at Talledega or a football game in Tuscaloosa.… Read the rest

Giving the Mundane Its Beautiful Due

Eyegal said it in passing just as the Duke v. Bradley game was set to tip off last night. It was one of those comments designed not so much to inform as to query, and I recognized it as such. I was preoccupied with Duke point guard Kyrie Irving who was sitting out the game with a toe ailment and the effects that would have on my beloved Dukies’ offense to pay it much mind. But I suppose I paid it enough since I did answer back, and if that wasn’t enough, there’s always this blog post.

“We’re starting to get some Christmas cards,” she called out from the kitchen.… Read the rest

The Devil’s Hour Be Damned

My earliest memory is of waking up around 3:00 AM demanding my bottle. My mother, desperate for sleep, stumbled into my room, leaned over the edge of the crib with half-closed eyes staring down at me, and handed me one.

It was full of Coke, not milk. I grabbed the bottle and eagerly started to suck its sugary teat. Minutes later, I was back to sleep, and so was she.

I’m pretty sure my mother didn’t read about that little trick anywhere in Dr. Spock. She was “winging it,” as they say. What would I want if I awoke crying at 3:00 AM?Read the rest

I Still Believe In Santa Claus

If I had a shred of innocence left in me by the summer of 1968, it was all gone by the time Mom gave me “The Talk.” No, not that talk. The one about Santa Claus.

Martin Luther King, Jr was gone and now Bobby Kennedy was dead too, and the world seem to be spinning out of control. I watched Memphis burn on TV and remember seeing the thousands of grieving onlookers who lined the tracks and payed their respects as Kennedy’s funeral train traveled from New York City to Washington, D.C.  I was a mere preschooler, but it didn’t take some preternatural sixth sense to tell that most folks thought the world was going to hell in a handbasket.… Read the rest

A Modest Veterans Day Proposal

In many respects, every day is Veterans Day for me. By virtue of my chosen profession, I have spent the majority of my waking hours over the past 17 years with former soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen. By and large, they are a respectable, salt-of-the-earth lot, as good as they come.

It’s an honor to care for them each day, and since I never served in the military myself, I’ve come to think of it as a way of giving back to my country a little bit of what it has given me. But I’ve formed a few impressions about the military and war over the years, and perhaps today is as good a day as any to share some of them with you.… Read the rest