I remember the yellow mums
that adorned the mothers’ sweaters
in those autumn days of the early 60s
when football games were played in the sunlight
on a Saturday afternoon.
Times were more casual,
although the games just as intense.
Then they were known as
the Delaware Valley Regional High School Terriers.
40 years later, Terriers are not
an aggressive enough mascot —
so now they call themselves “the dogs”.
Then, mums told all there was to say
about a mother’s pride
a sense of loyalty to the hometown
how beauty was displayed in simplicity,
and wearing flowers at a football game
was still touching.
They were all there, in the bleachers,
the day when Rick Long had his concussion.
He got kicked in the head
tackling the fullback
for South Hunterdon Regional High School
on Thanksgiving Day.
The mothers gasped,
as he lay so motionless on the field.
as he walked off in a daze
to wander the sidelines.
The whole group consoled Mrs. Long
the sorority of strong women
there for their children,
not because they particularly liked football.
The next morning, a floral arrangement
arrived at Fran Long’s home
just in time for Thanksgiving dinner.
This one had the yellow and blue school colors,
but also had the deep crimson and white
the pinks and oranges,
and the little yellow popcorn mums
to fill in between.
Fran was touched by this all…..
and now – 40 years after Rick’s passing
she tends her bed of mums
on the hillside near her driveway entrance.
She has not been back to a football game since.
Today new lights from the field,
blaze and announce the Friday night games –
she lives close enough to hear the crowd roar
after each good tackle,
as they first cheered, then grew eerily silent
She knows some young high school girls
undoubtedly still wear the mums
since she finds her yellows,
missing from the hillside garden on Saturday mornings,
plucked at the base
by high school boys
who stop quickly after school
and furtively snip a stem or two
on the afternoon before the Friday night game.
When she notices, she is not upset.
She smiles but a wry little smile.
Ricky, she images, would have done the same –
stopped quickly at someone’s Mum garden
clipped a few without asking –
as he was driving past
in his 66 Chevy Impala
on the day before the ’67 Thanksgiving game.