Posts Tagged ‘summer’

Two “Heaven”ly Poems From March 1988

April 25, 2011

by Thomas M. Pender



Some poems come out so short, I just call them “thoughts”:


Heaven is a hot summer
day with a bottomless
glass of Coke and ice.
-March 1988
If Heaven
truly is a Paradise,
then my Daddy
is at his Colorado cabin
and telling anyone who’ll
listen about his wife and kids.
written by t. michael pender  3/88
©1988 T. Michael Pender.  All rights reserved.

Freeze Framing All I Ever Wanted

March 24, 2011

by Thomas M. Pender

To me, and most people I’m sure, songs are like tickets to a time machine.  When you hear songs from your past, you remember where and how old you were when you first heard the song, or when the song had an impact on you.  There are several songs from the 1981-’82 era that remind me of short shorts and lines of dancing girls.

For a shy teen who couldn’t form a coherent sentence around girls – especially “older” girls! – it was pretty convenient to have a big sister who captained our high school’s pom pom squad during her senior year.  For several weeks during the summer of 1981, a line of girls paraded past our living room and into our spacious back yard.

As a favor to me, God had placed my bedroom at the back corner of the second floor of our house.  This gave me a wonderful overall view of the rhythmic exercises of a dozen girls in shorts.  Some thirty years later, Santana’s All I Ever Wanted, The J. Geils Band’s Freeze Frame, and Hall and Oates’ You Make My Dreams (Come True) remind me of these weeks.  In fact, the first and third titles seem appropriate, too!

I was not a perverse lad.  I just got crushes and kept my mouth shut about them.  In the fall of 1981, I wrote my first poem, and found there an avenue to express my affections in a personal way, but while spectating the summer dancing in the back yard, it was just a matter of watching and enjoying.  Okay, there may have been a smidgen of amateur coveting, but it was the most innocent kind.

I was not one to attend sporting events, but I did see some performances of my sister’s crew that year.  I knew all their names, and what it was that I liked about each one.  It seemed to me that there must be a law somewhere that cheerleaders and pom pom girls had to be cute.  (Of course, my cootie-laced sister didn’t count.  Yuck.)  What I really enjoyed during those summer rehearsals was that the pretty girls of Waterford-Kettering High School were talking to me, and they were nice to me!  True, we hardly had extensive, meaningful conversations, but you’d be surprised how deep and inspirational a simple “Hi, Tom” can be when accompanied by a smile. . . . and if a similarly nerdy friend is standing next to you in the hallway when such an event occurs, you can practically feel the respect intensifying.

Eons later, all this comes back to me when one of these select few tunes escapes my car’s speakers.  Just a note or two, and the smile returns.  I can even recall a few specific dance moves during specific lines of specific songs.  I remember the rehearsals and the high school gym performances, the faces of the girls, and I’m younger immediately.

Songs are cool that way!

Ten Things To Do In Georgia When It’s “Cold” (i.e., Below 50)

February 8, 2011

by Thomas M. Pender


10.)      Bless someone’s heart as they try to scrape their windshield with a credit card.


9.)        Get outside and bask in the low humidity, while you still can!


8.)        Start planning your first beach party of the season, because we’re likely only three weeks away from summer weather.


7.)        Leave work ten minutes early (with management’s blessing, no less!) to warm up your car.


6.)        Wear two NASCAR shirts to church instead of one.


5.)        Go a-huntin’!


4.)        Finish watching football, keep watching basketball, and look forward to watching baseball.


3.)        Call in sick, so you don’t have to go out in the horrid weather and risk getting sick.


2.)        Reminisce about this year’s one snowfall.




1.)        “Fix to” buy a sweater.

Dad and the Dining Room Monster

February 3, 2011

by Thomas M. Pender

My mom always had a notorious black thumb with plants.  She could kill innocent ferns and harmless flowers with the greatest of ease.  In fact, it was sadly ironic how hard she tried to keep the poor creatures alive.  She even “plant-sat” for vacationing friends, and wound up having to replace each beloved family member upon the vacationers’ return.

This became a bit of a family joke.  Eventually, she was given synthetic (or “fake”) plants to care for, and most living greenery was kept at a protective distance.  Still, there was this one vine that lived in the corner of our dining room that drooped sickly, yet refused to cross over into the next realm.  Its pot stood a deathbed vigil while the desperately watered leaves curled, turned pale, and slowly became a yellowish white.

Yet, it would not die.

This bothered my dad to no end.  There it was, just beyond his right arm.  Lurking.  Watching us eat every meal, every day.  Staring hungrily at our food, yet refusing to accept the sustenance of Mom’s water.  It eventually got the best of him, and even though he didn’t care for plants, he decided to get personally involved in the life expectancy of this one.  After an otherwise normal meal one day, he turned to his right, and attempted to push the lingering foliage through Death’s door.

“Would you hurry up and die, you ugly beast?!”

It was instantly hilarious, and it became a bit of a daily and nightly routine.  Every breakfast and dinner included some kind of sideways insult, if not a full-blown half-conversation, between my dad and this poor sickly climbing vine that could not climb.

Or could it?

A few weeks after the man at the head of our table began mistreating the dining room vegetation, Mom noticed something a bit odd.  One of the underdeveloped leaves had started to turn.

It had started to turn green!

She was overjoyed.  One of her patients had a chance to make it!  Maybe she had learned a thing or two about watering through trial-and-error.  Not only did the pallor of the vegetative vegetation improve, but the trowel-shaped leaves actually began to grow in size!  Eventually, they increased to the size of an adult human hand, and spawned brother and sister leaves along the way.  This defiant seedling inched its way up the thin pole that had been stuck into its pot, until it was tall enough to look my seated father in the eye.

“Good morning, Monster,” he would sleepily mumble in the mornings.  My mom would defend it against every insult.  This initially frail sprig had fought back and become a literal upstanding citizen in our household.  The entire family . . . including my unconfessing father . . . was duly impressed.

In the summer of 1987, Dad went into the hospital for a much-needed triple bypass operation.  He spent two months in ICU, getting the finest attention from the best healthcare professionals.  Meanwhile, back at home, no one bellowed at the dining room vine.  No one called it names, or wished it away.  We were all a little too worried about Dad to take the time to insult the houseplants in his absence.

The beast in the corner of the dining room slowly changed again.  This time, its deep green leaves began to retreat.  Its color paled.  It shrank back into the depressing vine it had been long ago, although this time there were more sickly yellow extremities for Mom to water.

Dad passed away at the hospital in October.  He never returned to his chair in the dining room.  He never came back to challenge his old nemesis.  Eventually, it became clear that it was the attention – regardless of how comically abusive it was – that the plant thrived on.  The vine, along with the rest of the family, never recovered from Dad’s loss.  Shortly after his passing, the plant left us, as well.

As strangely sadomasochistic as the relationship was, it had indeed been a relationship.  The plant needed carbon dioxide to live, and therefore, interaction.  Even though Dad hadn’t given it the type of interaction that most nursery employees would recommend, it was still attention of a sort.  The plant had drunk up Dad’s taunting as thirstily as it had Mom’s water.  In the end, it felt the family loss right along with us.

My dad had a great personality and many friends.  We knew this.  But how impressive is it, and how much does it say about a guy, that a plant would refuse to go on living without him?

Our Igloo Away From Home

January 27, 2011

by Thomas M. Pender

Every family has rituals.  Some are pleasant, some not so much.  One practice that my family used to put into action on a fairly regular basis was one of the most enjoyable.

The Baskin-Robbins run.

I don’t recall exactly when it started, but I believe I was in junior high.  We had moved some years prior into my grandparents’ house, in order to take care of them.  We three kids started at the local elementary school, commenced to make friends, and our family ended up living there until many years after each child grew and left home.  During our stay at that Waterford address, however, it became a regular habit to get two volunteers (one of which was always a parent, until my sister Debi was old enough to drive) to go about a mile and a half from the house to the town Baskin-Robbins and get five pints of ice cream.

Before leaving the house, there would be the list-making.  The list-maker would get a scrap of paper, and go find the three relatives who were not going on the treat trek, and wait for them to decide which of the available thirty-one flavors they wished to gobble.  Sometimes this took quite some time – I admit I was a difficult decider – and sometimes this was a foregone conclusion.  My dad, for example, lived on peanut-butter-and-chocolate ice cream alone.  We would ask out of respect and courtesy, but everyone knew what he was getting before he did.  I actually tended to write down his answer before asking.

We often joked as a family that we should call the orders in ahead of time.  Despite my ponderings, we each had a “usual” flavor, and we believed that we could probably call in to the shop and say “Penders in fifteen minutes,” and be greeted by a sack pre-filled with our order, complete with pink plastic spoons, when we arrived.

Even though we lived in Michigan, where the winters were fairly serious business, the B-R missions were no less routine in January than they were in July!  In fact, I believe that we as a family kept the doors of the ice cream haven open during the snowbound months.  We’d rush inside, shivering and numb, retrieve our ice-cold treats, and rush back out in the shivering-and-numbing weather.

We may not have been a family of geniuses, but by God, we knew what we wanted!

Our addiction spread even to our dogs.  The household pets varied over the years, as pets will do, but whether there was one, two, or three dogs in the house, they would all sit fidgeting as we humans ate from our familiar pink-and-brown containers.  Once we finished and lowered the empty vessels toward our canine housemates, it was a party.  Tails a-waggin’, they would simply attack!  Our afghan Gillian would, in very ladylike fashion, remove the ice-creamed cardboard from our hands and carry it to her own little space in the room.  Then, with her furry arms crossed over the top – so as to prevent escape, I imagine – she would sink her long nose and attached face deep into the tasty box.  We have pictures of this.  The container would literally disappear under her blonde arms, and she would look like she was hiding her eyes for a game of hide-and-seek.  To the untrained eye, however, I imagine she would look like a large pile of hair on our family room floor!

Dogs came and went, and kids grew and moved out.  It’s been decades now since we attacked our local Baskin-Robbins store en masse, but still, every time I see a B-R store, or get to the bottom of an ice cream container at home, I do get a twinge of nostalgia.  I miss the family missions to retrieve the treats, and the canine chorus of whimpers that would always be heard as you were nearing the three-quarter-done mark.

What can I say, but that when it came to my family, Baskin-Robbins was always “cool”!

I See God In Everything

July 19, 2010
I see God in everything – –
            For God creates such beauty
                        That Beauty becomes synonymous with God
            I see God’s hand in the sunset
                        Guiding the paintbrush
                                    That paints the darkening sky
            I hear God’s laughter
                        When I see the play
                                    Of the squirrels and rabbits
            I can feel God
                        When I feel the warmth
                                    Of a summer sun
            But most of all
                        I can see God’s art
                                    In the shine of your eyes
                                                And the beauty of your smile.
written by t. michael pender  11/15/85
©1985 T. Michael Pender.  All rights reserved.

Bitter Lesson, Summer 1991

May 17, 2010



some people have hearts which

cannot be




must be purchased,

in cash,

or they do

not leave the




written by t. michael pender  11/19/91

©1991 T. Michael Pender.  All rights reserved.