The Mum's Message

Lincoln High School 1967 Homecoming float bearing Queen Cathy Hatmaker
Ah, the chrysanthemum—autumn’s emblem of high school homecoming.
I remember buckets full of the mammoth, white variety for sale at the admission gate of my alma mater’s football field. I pinned the puffy flower to my cheerleading sweater.
My first corsage.
The night was magical; the bright lights and bleachers crowded with classmates. Oh, the electricity of our fight song, horns and drums echoing in the crisp night air. With youth and school spirit pulsing through my veins, no wonder I leapt like a deer.
The football game was incidental. Sure, I cheered for my team to win and believed the drama was real when Rick Binieki limped off the field. Al Newman, my senior year boyfriend who was also a football player, confided Rick’s theatrics were staged for a time out. 
In my naiveté, the homecoming tradition meant pom-pom parties with friends and floats bearing the queen and her court. These school events diverted me from the tension and confusion of my parents’ divorce the year I graduated in 1967.
January 1968, before my father hugged me good-bye on CMU’s campus, Al, my anchor, returned my senior picture. Thankfully, I made the cheerleading squad and found another tribe of like minds, male and female. They navigated me around the landmines of insecurity into the bittersweet age of independence.
Sweet was the camaraderie of homecoming eve. CMU’s marching band led our cheer team through campus. Students joined the parade as we snaked by the Student Union, dorms, and streets lined with Greek houses.
We passed the football field and aimed for a wooden tower about three stories tall. The band circled the structure in a moat of instruments and belted out the Chip’s fight song. Some dignitary spoke some humorous remarks and lit the timber.
A fellow jilted cheerleader turned to me and said, “I can’t remember when I’ve felt this happy.”
I empathized. It’s impossible to feel insignificant and sad when we’re a part of a moment that sets our heart and mind afire with joy and hope. It is the moment alone without a friend when we‘re tempted to drift into doubt and disappointment.

Cheering at CMU in 1969

Not long after that magnificent bonfire, an unknown Mel Underwood and some of his fraternity brothers showed up at Hillsdale College for CMU’s away game. Guess who he saw cheering along CMU’s sideline?
It took several phone calls for yours truly to trust this Theta Chi who resembled John Kennedy. We came from different domains. North and South. Catholic and Baptist. Yet, a guy who climbed trees with me and loved Jesus was worth the risk.

Dear Reader, I remain indifferent to football and cannot remember the words to my high school and college fight songs.
The mum’s message, however, I know. No matter our faults, setbacks, and sorrow, we have a friend in Jesus. He knows our needs and will not leave us comfortless.
Age to age, our God is patient and good; arms forever open for our homecoming.