Michael T. Dolan

Writings, Reflections, and Commentaries

A Tree House All Their Own

“The Tree House: Every Child’s Home Away from Home” in Main Line Today (July, 2013). Moms have their kitchens, dining rooms and living room—their porches, gardens and bedrooms. Truth be told, they have the whole house. Dads have their garages and basements, or so they think. Such areas are really on loan from their spouses, giving wives […]


The Smiley Face Flag

“Passing the flag to a new generation” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (May 19, 2013). It hung from the house like a beacon. Unlike most flags on the block, however, it paid no tribute to country or ancestral motherland. Rather, it honored a state of being: the simple, yellow, smiley face flag, broadcasting its message of […]

“Indecisions, Indecisions”

“Decisions, Decisions” in Main Line Today (May, 2013). I stand in aisle nine and stare blankly at the toothbrushes. There are 97 different kinds to choose from – each one recommended by a different dental association. I pour over the options, weighing my mouth’s needs with each toothbrush’s specialty. I find the one perfectly suited for […]

Walking in the Air

They flew through the night sky, sitting side by side and row by row. Save for a few overhead spotlights shining down on crossword puzzles, the cabin was dark. The muffled hum of the engines outside lulled the travelers to sleep. The child would not join them. Sugarplums could wait. The boy looked around in […]

The Blue Plane (Yes, THAT Blue Plane!)

“Taking Flight Lessons from Darby’s Skiles Fielding Montague” in Main Line Today (March, 2013). It sat there for years — one of those oddities that gives a place character and becomes the stuff of legend: the tiny powder-blue plane inexplicably perched on a roof in Darby. Parked atop a historic Queen Anne-style home on Main Street, […]

Making Tracks

“Along for the ride” in Main Line Today (December, 2012). The burgundy engine hums to life with a subtle twist of the wrist, leaving behind fathers with suitcases and moms clutching the hands of children. Frozen on the platform, the tiny figures wait for a train they’ll never board. The ride is corky smooth, over […]

Thanksgiving and the Quieting Season

“Quiet Time” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (November 22, 2012). Stepping out into the cold November night, I shut the door behind me and listen. Inside, muted voices laugh and reminisce; children holler; an uncle plays “Heart and Soul” on the piano. Outside, however, all is still save the winter wind. Trees sway, a honking goose […]

Without a Trace

“Mud and memories” in Main Line Today (November, 2012). I stood on the front stoop, looking left and right. A sneaker dangled from each hand. All was quiet. Too quiet. Lawn mowers, blowers, and circular saws were silenced. The bouncing echo of the basketball faded. The Sunday sun was about to call it a day. […]

My daughter, the undertaker

“Mysteries of life and the side yard” in the Philadelphia Inquirer. My daughter, the undertaker. Pulling out of the driveway one recent morning, I noticed a lifeless squirrel on the side of the road. Whether it was tree branch acrobatics or my neighbor’s Nissan that did him in, I’ll never know. Either way, Mr. Squirrel […]

Season of the Carousel

“At Knoebels, the season of the carousel” in the Philadelphia Inquirer. When faced with an autumnal deadline, and winter’s arrival just beyond that, summer sneaks its blessings into sun-soaked days and shouts to the world: “LIVE NOW!” We join with the waves until one day in early September when they return to the ocean and […]

Thoreau the truth-seeker

“Thoreau the truth-seeker” in the Philadelphia Inquirer. I can see it clearly: the American literature textbook from my sophomore year in high school, complete with faded red cover, frayed spine and a list of students who had rifled through its pages in years past. In it I discovered a kindred spirit, soul mate and best […]

Facebook Infiltrates the Hundred Acre Wood

“Yearning to go back to the ways of Christopher Robin” in the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Friendship,” said Christopher Robin, “is a very comforting thing to have.” It is indeed, though I wonder what might have happened to those beloved friendships in the Hundred Acre Wood if Facebook had infiltrated Christopher Robin’s imagination. Instead of a boy […]

Learning to live in a graveyard

“Learning to live in a graveyard” in the Philadelphia Inquirer. I grew up in a cemetery. Apart from the house I grew up in, the cemetery just four doors down from that house is home to the fondest memories of my childhood, my adolescence, and the pseudo angst-ridden years of early adulthood. In an odd […]

On Eagle’s Wings

“A place not yet touched by 9/11″ in the Philadelphia Inquirer. When the mood strikes and both the calendar and skies are clear, my children and I venture to the nearby Brandywine Valley Airport to catch a glimpse of the airplanes and helicopters in flight. Watching these planes, my mind travels back to my own childhood, a […]

My Life is Password Protected

“Identity Crisis” in Main Line Today (July, 2011). I tried to tackle my to-do list today, but things haven’t worked out as planned. 1. Pay mortgage. I went to pay my mortgage but couldn’t remember my password. After asking for help, I was told I first needed to answer the following: “What is your favorite […]

I Google Myself, Therefore I Am

“I Google myself, therefore I am” in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Under cover of darkness, with the shades drawn and the neighborhood fast asleep – save for a red fox making its rounds in search of prey – I went in search of myself. The Google home page stood starkly before me and, like an addict […]

A Father’s Retreat

“A Father’s Retreat” in Main Line Today (June 2011). As a young boy, I never could quite understand how my father could spend hours each evening in that room. The routine went like this: After arriving home shortly before 6 p.m., our dad would join his seven sons – and our poor mother – at […]

An existential look at pranksterism

“Dyed-in-the-wool fools don’t need a special day” in the Philadelphia Inquirer. I love practical jokes. Even before I could tie my shoes, I was tying unsuspecting family members’ laces together. So began my career as a prankster – a profession that can sometimes prove hazardous to one’s health and one’s relationships, depending on the extent […]

Confessions of a Canine Curmudgeon

“To put it bluntly, I don’t like your dog” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (March 25, 2011). I have a confession to make: I’m not a dog lover. Never have been, never will be. There, I’ve said it. Friends, relatives, neighbors, now you know the truth: I don’t love your dog. For years, I’ve been putting […]

Coming Home

“Thanksgiving and a Welcome Melancholy” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (November 25, 2010). On a recent autumn night, I found myself sitting by the fire in the backyard. The moon and stars shone above while the fire danced and crackled below. In the quiet, there was a distant sound. It was a solitary goose, its honks […]

Rapping at my neighbor’s door

“Halloween Fears” in the Harrisburg Patriot-News (October 28, 2010). “Suddenly there came a tapping, as of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.” Edgar Allan Poe penned these words in “The Raven,” the story of a lonely man hidden inside his home, so distraught over the loss of his beloved Lenore that an […]

The Invasion Part 2: Silly Bandz

“Silly Bandz Invasion” in Main Line Today (November 2010). The little critters started appearing in our house one at a time. Before long, they began to multiply. Fearing an infestation was imminent, I called the exterminator: “Hello. I think I have any infestation in the works.” “Can you describe the nature of the infestation, Mr. […]

The Invasion Part 1: Stinkbugs

“Invasion of the Stinkbugs” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (October 19, 2010). Drifting off to sleep, I’m roused by a faint buzzing from across the room. It quiets, and I start to drift off again. But it resumes, and this time it sounds like a helicopter coming in for a landing on my head. I thrash, […]

Life lessons for the superhero apprentice

“Superhero in Training” in Main Line Today (August 2010). At 4 years old, my son has just one problem in life, and it plagues him night after night. Lying in bed, a never-ending debate runs through his mind over which superhero he should be when he gets big. Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk. Even […]

One stamp at a time

“The Great Letter Revival Movement” in the Harrisburg Patriot-News (July 3, 2010). An unspoken, hopeful moment in my day, and I daresay in most people’s, occurs with the simple act of reaching into the mailbox. Somewhere deep in our subconscious is a deep longing for a pleasant surprise to begin or end the day — […]

Unearth Day: Digging in the Dirt

“The case for ‘Unearth Day’” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (April 21, 2010). This week, as folks around the globe celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, I propose that we establish an offshoot movement to be known as “Unearth Day.” Earth Day, which is Thursday, gives voice to the planet. It’s a call to both […]

Bonusgate: The suffix scandal

“Scandalously unoriginal” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (March 24, 2010). Here’s another verdict that should come out of the continuing Bonusgate corruption trials in Harrisburg: a cease-and-desist order against future use of the suffix “-gate.” Here’s what I would like to see in the courtroom: The jury enters the room. Dauphin County Judge Richard A. Lewis glances […]

A Twittering Resolution

“A Twittering New Year’s Resolution” in Main Line Today.

For the Love of the Ball

Fathers, sons, and lessons learned… “For the Love of the Ball” (Main Line Today, October 2009)  Early on in my eldest son’s life, Michael decided he wanted to be a ballplayer when he grew up. Signs of his intended vocation came from the start. Instead of sleeping with a furry teddy bear at night, my […]

Forty feet and friendship

“Forty feet and friendship” in Main Line Today (June 2008). “Clink! Clank! Thump. Clank!” Followed by cheers, jeers or groans. “Clink! Clank! Thump. Clank!” Back and forth the sounds echoed, the metal-on-metal music of men playing horseshoes. Listening and watching from afar taught me much. Men hurling metal. A game perhaps, but so much more. […]

The addiction

Dedicated to the pursuit of “stuff” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (May 23, 2008). Any day now my mailman, Bob, will be delivering a hefty check to my mailbox courtesy of the U.S. Treasury. With two kids worth $300 a pop, my wife and I are looking at close to $2,000 of something called “economic stimulus.” […]

Okefenokee Swamp: Land of the Trembling Knees

“Two guys not so okey-dokey in Okefenokee” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (January 13, 2008). The Seminoles certainly had it right when they called the eerie expanse of cypress and snake-infested land on the Georgia-Florida border the Okefenokee Swamp – “land of the trembling earth.” Though the origin of the word draws on the unsteady nature […]

Thanksgiving: An Eagle’s-Eye View

“Thanks for the memories” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (November 22, 2007). Thousands crowded the Ben Franklin Parkway to cheer the floats, bands and enormous balloons as they rolled, marched and floated past. I watched the scene unfold far below me, the mob miniature and the music muted. The country’s longest-running Thanksgiving Day parade made its […]

Painted rocks

“Painting a landscape is not always a good thing” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (August 14, 2007). The rocks have stood there virtually unchanged for 20,000 years, giving visitors a present-day glimpse of a long-ago past. It’s known as Boulder Field, and its nearly 17 acres of sandstone and rock is an awe-inspiring site to anyone […]

A little Bling

“A little Bling can go a long way in Nicaragua” in the Denver Post (August 12, 2007). Twenty percent of the world’s population does not have enough water. The United Nations expects that number to rise to 30 percent by 2025, with possibly 2.3 billion people lacking access to improved water supplies. I propose a […]

Faith, freedom, and riding a bike

“Lessons of fatherhood, learned at play” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (June 15, 2007). It’s as cliched as they come, but my earliest memory of my father is when he taught me to ride a bike. The memory is a fitting one for a son, for it calls to mind all that fatherhood encompasses. The bike […]

Thanksgiving Movies and 8mm Memories

“Movie moments, at home” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (November 23, 2006). Thanksgiving weekend is regarded as one of the more important holiday weekends for the Hollywood studios. They send new films to the big screen when friends and family have the time to spend together watching. In all, the top 10 movies this weekend will […]

Join the Madness of Mad Hatter Day

“Let your silliness triumph all day long” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (October 6, 2006). Thanks to the devil that is marketing, there is now a day, week and month for everything. Companies and organizations looking to push a product, agenda or cause simply hijack a moment in time, label it for their advantage, and hope […]

I Grew Up in a Cemetery

I grew up in a cemetery. Apart from the house I grew up in, the cemetery just four doors down from that house is home to the fondest memories of my childhood, my adolescence, my teenage years, and the pseudo angst-ridden years of early adulthood. In an odd way, it was a second home. Its […]


“Starting Point” in the National Catholic Reporter (August 11, 2006). I walk the beach with my daughter, a bucket of ocean in tow. Looking to the waves, a man is teaching his son to bodysurf, and I catch of glimpse of my past and my future. As a child, there was no missing my 6-foot-4 […]

A Mother’s Garden Tools: Patience and impatiens

“A Mother’s Garden Tools” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (March 10, 2006). The Philadelphia Flower Show, which runs through Sunday at the Convention Center, is an inspiration to some gardeners, a glimpse of things to come for others, and to mothers of sons everywhere, a depressing preview of yet  another garden that will be trampled during […]

Buzzing J. Edgar Hoover

“This priest lent wisdom to others” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (November 27, 2005). My uncle buzzed J. Edgar Hoover. Growing up in Washington in the 1940s, as a young schoolboy he found himself on a school trip to FBI headquarters. During the tour, all the students were given the opportunity to meet Mr. Hoover and […]

Hail Mary and the ‘Times Tables’

Hail Mary and the ‘Times Tables’ in the Philadelphia Inquirer (September 25, 2005). The siren behind me causes me to look into the rearview mirror, and I am instantly transported back to my youth. Sitting near the back of the classroom, I remember our second grade class racing through the multiplication tables with unwavering speed. […]

Must See TV?

“Without TV, time to spare” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (June 10, 2005). I’m willing to bet you’ve said it in the last week. Perhaps even this morning. I know I have. And together we’ll say it again next week, telling others – and ourselves – the same sad excuse: “There’s just not enough time.” The […]

When the barber is your father

“Locks of Love” in Main Line Today (June 2005). Perhaps it’s a bit odd, but my brothers and I only ever had one barber: our father. Businessman by day, barber by night, Dad cut the hair of his seven sons like only a father can. Snipping here, shaving there, he played the role of barber […]

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