Donna C. Terrell

I Was Just Thinkin'

On Christmas and Coming of Age

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It was in second grade that suspicions flared in my mind about Santa Claus. “Why does every store on this block have a Santa Claus?” I asked my mother as we walked from store to store on south Michigan Avenue, a once bustling hub of activity in Chicago.

“Oh, those are his helpers,” my mother replied.

“Well, why do they say they’re Santa Claus? Why are they dressed like him? I thought the elves were his helpers.” I don’t recall my mother saying anything to that. I think by fourth grade Santa was a non-issue.

Believing in Santa or not, I still had that Christmas morning excitement. It was always such anticipation and suspense leading up to Christmas that sleeping on Christmas Eve night was impossible. Even as an only child, I rose up early to leap into the bounty of toys and gifts under the tree.

Then I’m in my teens and getting out of bed at 5 and 6 in the morning on a non-school day was so not going to happen.

Then I’m single and the only thing I wanted for Christmas was somebody to love and love me back.

Then I’m with The Boyfriend and I wanted him to be The Fiance. I had my mind set on a big diamond ring—that I didn’t get.

As I reflect back on the years of Christmas past, I see that Christmas can be a marker for life. Think about how old you were or where you were in life

  • when you no longer believed in Santa Claus.
  • when you stopped waking up early to unwrap gifts.
  • when you wanted what money can’t buy.
  • when giving and buying for others were more important than receiving.
  • when you realize that you have everything you need and want.

I’m in a really good place right now; I have my material Christmas present—a paint job and new carpet. Non-material items—the intangibles—are the important things. Everybody’s here and healthy. Best friends are dating decent men. Dad is coming over for Christmas dinner. There’s money to buy gifts as well as to pay that speeding ticket I got a couple of weeks ago. Now it’s time to relax and watch Charlie Brown, The Grinch, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. C’mon, it’s not the same without these traditional gems! Whether I’m 5, 35, or 75, happy or discontent, watching a black-and-white or HD flat screen, they are the constant. Good to know that some things never change.

Merry Christmas to you! I hope this year finds you in a good place too!

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On Friendship and Falling Away

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As far as I know, I haven’t done anything to Roslyn (not her real name). One day we’re making plans to get together; next day I call and she sounds all distant and then stops answering texts. Hmmm, what’s up with that? So I text in about a week. No response. Okaaay… Then I send a card in a month with a short message about how I value her friendship and if I’ve done something to offend her, let’s talk about it. No response.

Well, having reached the age of old-enough-to have-wisdom-and-still-young-and-cute-enough-to-enjoy-it, I know when to leave folks alone. This is not the first time a friendship has disintegrated. There are certain relationships you just know will stand the test of time, like with Linda. She was on my Christmas list when I was seven and I figured she’d be on it when I reached 70. Not so. Over the course of time when we became young adults, Linda’s childhood angst started surfacing, and she would start cycles of bizarre behavior that would involve getting angry out the clear blue sky and not speaking for days, then weeks, then months. I remember when she got mad at her brother and me and walked out of a restaurant during her mother’s birthday dinner. (Now if you storm out on your mama…) What we did is still a mystery. I know now that Linda had some serious emotional issues, but at the time, it didn’t feel good for a lifelong friendship to disintegrate.

I think of Belinda, and I realize that it’s been over 20 years since I spoke to her. That, I guess, was a natural drifting apart. She got married and had children, and I was still single with no kids. I would go to social events at her house and realize that most of the people there were married. Next thing you know, weeks would go by between phone calls, and now I haven’t spoken to a person I was once very close to since the 20th century.

I was responsible for ending my friendship with Jackie. We went out of town together with another friend, who was more Jackie’s friend than mine. Some goofy things happened on that trip, and there was a slight falling out. Jackie did call and we talked about it, but things were never the same after that. To her credit, she tried to stay in touch, but I just wasn’t interested in resuming the relationship.

President Obama is partly to blame for Debbie and I not having seen each other since he was sworn in the first time. I remember Debbie sending me a clip from one of his speeches, and telling me in no uncertain terms should I vote for this guy. When I told her I agreed with him, it set off a firestorm of email back-and-forths. I told her we don’t have to email; we can talk about this. Next thing I know, our once-a-month Starbucks meetings lessened. Then I started working more regularly and we couldn’t meet up. Now it’s been well over 4 years since I’ve seen her. Although Debbie and I were very close,  there have been periods of time in our friendship where we weren’t in each other’s lives. Both times when Debbie was pregnant, I had no idea. But she always got back in touch. Hmmm, maybe in 2016…

With some people, you don’t miss the friendship and you don’t really think about them too much. With others, you grieve the loss. Some losses are abrupt; some gradually drift due to circumstances in life. With some people, you realize where they are and you ride it out. Right now, my good friend Michael, whom I’ve known since high school, has been kooky for over 2 years due to a deteriorating marital situation. So if he says he’s going to do something and then I don’t hear from him, whatever. If 2 or 3 months go by with no contact, whatever. I pray for him, don’t take anything personally and move on.

I don’t have blood brothers and sisters, but I have been amply blessed with lifelong friends who truly are my brothers and sisters and they’ll kill anybody who says it ain’t so. Relationships with Clotele, Ebon and Donna—they ain’t going nowhere. I had ups and downs with each of them, that’s natural during the course of decades between family. But they’re stuck with me and I’m stuck with them. Clotele’s daughters are stuck with me. Donna’s mother is stuck with me and my father is stuck with Donna and Clotele. That’s how it is!

They say people are in your life for a season, a reason or a lifetime. I don’t know where Roslyn will fall in ultimately, but I think we should praise God for our lifetimers. They are truly rare indeed.

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Dinner with the Durrs

I recently read an interesting article about memorable Thanksgiving dinners. I got to thinking about the decades’ worth of Thanksgiving dinners I’ve eaten. Nothing really stands out because it was always the same fare—turkey and a thousand side dishes, as well as assorted cakes and pies.

Now best friend and sister Donna and I had a system when it came to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. My family always ate early. Her family always ate late. So round one would be at my house and round two would be at hers. In early years of our friendship, Donna and I never wanted to be bothered with her younger brother and sisters. We’d go off in the living room and talk until time to eat. Later as time went on and everybody got older, it was fun hanging out with them and munching on chips and dip until the food was ready.

By seven o’clock (yep, seven) dinner was served. We’d all cram into the kitchen, hold hands and pray, then pile our plates high. It was the usual—turkey, potato salad, dressing, sweet potatoes, green beans, and rolls. Donna’s mother is the best cook. I patterned my own dressing and potato salad after hers. It took years, but I finally got there! A couple of years ago, as Donna ate from my table, she raved about my dressing. The Durr stamp of approval! We both want our cooking to taste like Mom’s!

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What I always liked about eating at Donna’s house was that I felt welcome and comfortable. Her parents never made me feel like I was an outsider, or that there was an unspoken boundary I wasn’t supposed to cross. I was expected over there, and it was always grab a plate! Once I remember taking a detour before I went over Donna’s. Pops, as I affectionately called her father, was quite taken aback. “You’re supposed to eat here,” he chided.

The first 3 or 4 years I was married, my husband and I would eat at Dad’s, then go to his mother’s house. I was wistful at first about not spending time with the Durrs on Thanksgiving.  At the Durr house, there is laughter, silliness, and a bond that goes back years and years. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind being with the in-laws—but it’s just very different. My husband likes the Durrs and they all like him. Lately I’ve just been meeting my husband at his mother’s house after I’ve spent sufficient heart time with the Durrs—my other family. The only thing that drives me nuts is there’s no football on the Durr television. When I can, I steal the remote.

Hmm, I can’t really think of any one memorable Thanksgiving at the Durrs. Same folks, same food. But it’s not about the food; it’s the people you eat the food with. Happy Thanksgiving! I hope it’s a fulfilling day.

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The Coolest Thing I Ever Wrote

alphabetI have been writing since second grade. Back in school, my mouth would water when the teacher would announce any kind of creative writing assignment.  I loved to write stories. The very first story I wrote was about some people being trapped in a salt mine. It was the coolest thing I ever wrote! My father was so proud he took the story to work. I’m sure his co-workers gave him the evil eye.

In fifth grade, my best friend Linda and I created a group of characters. They were kids like us. From the ages of 10 until 17, I wrote about those kids. My first story was 3 notebook pages, front and back handwritten. The last story I wrote was 150 notebook pages, front and back handwritten. I have just about every one of these stories, neatly tucked away in a box in the back of a closet at my father’s house. The very early stories are cringe-inducing, but some of the latter ones are actually pretty cool. I especially like “The Mystery at Lake Karu,” about how Stevie and Della’s family went to the lake to spend the summer. They came across an old Indian relic that brought bad luck to whomever had it in their possession. It had a lot of cool subplots too. It was the coolest thing I ever wrote!

I would never throw away anything I wrote, no matter how major or minor. I have the aforementioned stories, as well as writing assignments, old college term papers and even letters of complaint to companies. I’ve complained about uncaring doctors to crappy service to salesmen who blew me off at a car dealership. Boy, did that get a response! I could have bought a car for $1.50. That was the coolest complaint letter I ever wrote.  And on the flip side, I’ve written letters of praise and commendation. In my college days I even kept a folder of “Letters Written to Men.” I figured you never know when some of that stuff could be “repurposed.”

I stopped writing stories after college.  I actually got lazy about writing while in college. I remember taking a story Itypewriter wrote in high school, retyping it and turning it in to my college instructor. In high school, I got an A on that story. I was somewhat insulted that I got a college B on that same story.

I began to hate writing description. So laborious. He swaggered into the smoked-filled room, his well-tailored purple Versace suit hugging every ripped muscle. Meanwhile, she was watching from afar, her perfectly polished nails fingering the half-empty champagne flute. It was a shame the index fingernail was chipped. The moon peered down from the skylight, casting an eerie glow against the cigarette smoke. Who cares!? I don’t want to write all that. Can we cut to the chase here?

(He enters.)

HE: I knew you’d be here.

SHE: You think you know it all, don’t you? You only know in part.

HE: Tell me the part I don’t know.

SHE: You’d just forget, as always. You are proving you cannot be trusted.

HE: I’m sorry. I want to make it up to you. And The Society. Would you like another drink? Um, did you know that nail is chipped…

SHE: That is what I mean! Always dwelling on the insignificant! Charlatan and the rest of The Society…

(Shots ring out. He dives under the table. She grabs her gun and runs to the window.)

That’s another thing I love about writing. You never know what’s going to happen and how you can use it. When I wrote that silly descriptive bit, I just threw in the chipped nail. I didn’t set out to use it in dialogue; it just found its way in. Writing is so cool!

I’ve written scripts, ad copy, news stories, and magazine articles. I wrote some poems. (They normally were inspired by a break-up.)

That woman

She used to hold you so tight.

She would look into your eyes and smile.

She said she could kiss you forever.

But you said no.

I thought that was the coolest poem I ever wrote. I submitted it to a leading women’s mag. They promptly rejected it. I sent a letter of complaint.

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Yes folks, you never know where your words will take you. Sometimes you just have to follow their lead. This started off as me writing about what I love about writing, which morphed into stuff I wrote that I really liked, which got me thinking about stuff I hadn’t thought of in years. And I must admit that out of all the things I’ve written, I haven’t profited. I’ve made very little money and gained no acclaim. I admit that I haven’t always been focused on my writing. Perhaps I’ve taken it for granted, like it will always be here. But I want to encourage you fellow writers, whether you’re very successful at a writing career where you get paid handsomely, bill thousands and people know your name, or just write really great stuff and the back of the closet loves your work, embrace your gift and don’t lose it. Writing is power. We get results. We move people emotionally. We create worlds. Writing is the closest thing to being in control that you can get. Yet, somehow you aren’t totally in control. Your words are.

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Crossing the Finish Line

Never underestimate the power of a short-term goal.

Short-term goals give us something to shoot for in a nice attainable timeframe. I recently just achieved a short-term goal of participating in a 5k race. I’ve been working out for years and became extremely bored with my workout. So the Lord put it on me to do a 5K. Me? A 5K? I don’t even like running to catch my train. But I was intrigued, so I registered for an upcoming race.

That brought all new perspective to my workout. I was no longer bored. Now I was Officially In Training. I bought new running shoes. I never was a big treadmill person; elliptical was my usual cardio machine of choice. But now I was on the treadmill, working my way up to 3.2 miles. I started with 8 weeks to go. Working my way up to the 3.2 miles was uncomfortable. My legs felt heavy and my feet would get numb right about the 2- mile mark. Plus I was really sweating my hair out. It would be totally drenched! I decided I couldn’t worry about hair. Hair in place would not get me through my race.

My original plan was to power walk and finish the race in 45 minutes. But as I trained, I realized that if I want to finish in a “respectable” time frame and not bring up the rear in this thing, I’m gonna have to do some running. And what I discovered is that I actually CAN run! Wow! How cool is that? I started running/jogging and walking, and on the treadmill I clocked 40 minutes at 3.2 miles. I was quite proud of myself. I’ve never done 2 and 3 consecutive miles at any point in my cardio life. It was so gratifying to realize that I am in excellent shape and my years of working out are paying off. Now I know to some folks 3.2 miles is nothing, but for someone who’s never done it before, it’s a big deal.

Then I went to a very large trail not too far from where I live. It’s a 3.6-mile trail. At the 3.2 mark I looked at my stopwatch and got my heart broke. 46 minutes!? What? How could that be? I figured I’d finish faster outside because I wasn’t balancing on the treadmill. That’s when I learned that outside is slower than on the treadmill. Seriously? That’s bogus, as the kids say.

I did the trail once more before the race and did even worse.  I was nervous during the week of the race. The race info read that people are expected to be able to do a 15-minute mile pace, and those who fall way behind would be picked up and driven to where the faster participants were. I did not want to be one of those climbing out of the clown car.

Race Day dawned bright, sunny, and a cool 55 degrees. Perfect! I didn’t want to be hot out on the course. I was told that races are exciting because of the camaraderie with the people, and I would be faster on Race Day because of the adrenaline that comes with it. There was lots of activity going on, including banter from a couple of local TV personalities. There were other races happening that day too—a half marathon, a 15-mile bike race, and a 10k. The 5k was the last to line up. That was cool in and of itself; lining up at the start line with the others, everybody in their race shirts and official bibs that actually kept time.

The race course was through scenic South Holland, where the suburban residents were along the route cheering and offering cups of water and Gatorade. I started off running, then I’d drop down to power walking, then running again. Run, power walk/recover. Run, power walk/recover. By mile 2, I had started hating my life. Why did I get in this? I trudged on, my iPod blasting in my ears to take my mind off it. I can’t stop; I have to keep going. Now in the gym, I could have stopped. But not here, not now. Must complete, will complete.

I noticed that my feet felt fine; they didn’t feel numb! My legs didn’t feel like lead! I guess all my training and conditioning had paid off because now when it counts, I had pushed past all that. The finish line was in sight! I crossed it at 39:56!

How cool! What a triumphant feeling! To do something I’ve never done before! I ran a 5k race! I finished!

I hope this will be an encouragement to you. Maybe you too have become bored with the same ol’ same ol’. Do something different. You never know what you have inside you until you step out. Find a short-term, reachable goal and stick with it. Maybe it’s getting through one afternoon without eating sweets. Maybe it’s adding an extra 10 minutes to your cardio routine. Whatever your goal may be, stick with it and you’ll be crossing that finish line too!

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What Is It?

mountains?

These are the guesses I got–

an aerial view of a mountain range

sand

the Grand Canyon

Nope! This is frost and ice on the top of my car! Cool, huh? The swirls and patterns are amazing! I also sent this image to the local news weather guy, and it was shown on the air that night and in the newspaper the next day on the weather page!

 

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The Best Birthday Ever

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Happy Birthday to me! October 16th was my birthday. I was in a real good mood as I wrote this. I am not the kind of woman who gets depressed on birthdays because of age. I think that’s stupid.  I remember the year we turned 30 and the letter I got from my cousin asking how I felt about it. I wrote her back—turn 30 or die at midnight. Today I got to thinking about birthdays past.

The first birthday in my conscious memory is little number 4. I had a party and some of the kids on the block came. I remember the cake and the candles, and that I got a purple sweater. That sweater totally stands out. It was the best birthday ever!

My first grade birthday, age 6, also was pretty cool. Kids from my class came to my party, and notably, Alfred. I had a crush on Alfred. He gave me a really cool gift. It was some kind of Bambi-in-the-forest thing. I remember that it had these little reusable sticker things that you could place in the forest wherever you wanted. I remember my little crush on Alfred abruptly ended when he threw up in class one day soon after. But my party was the best ever cause he showed up!

When I turned 8, I got a bike and a Spirograph for my birthday. I came home from school and my mother told me to look inside the garage. I opened the garage door and there was this red and white 3-speed bike with a banana seat! How cool was that! My father hooked it all up before he went to work. Best birthday ever!

When you’re a little kid, you always get the chicken leg. I was getting sick of those drumsticks. I wanted my father’s piece—the breast. So on my 9th birthday, my mother fried me a chicken breast! She also fixed me some rice, which I promptly drowned in butter and sugar. Best birthday ever!

I guess subsequent birthdays don’t stand out as much for various reasons—by my 10th birthday I had lost my sweet mother. I got gifts and stuff on birthdays, but as I write this and reflect, I feel like a whole decade of birthdays are lost. Hmmm…?

But by my 20th birthday, I was a popular college student, and I got accolades from everybody from my sorority sisters and the frat guys to the cafeteria ladies! I remember my phone ringing off the hook with well-wishes! My best friend Donna and her little sisters threw me a small party. The kitchen was decorated, and little Bridgette and Crystal had drawn pictures. It was just us, eating cake and ice cream. Best birthday ever!

I spent considerable time (years, actually—but that’s another post!) in a relationship with a man who had a quite the gift for giving gifts and planning dates. Friends were just as excited as I was to see what Boyfriend was going to do that year. On my birthdays, he would shower me with gifts and we would go to really nice restaurants and do cool stuff. One time he decorated his entire basement for me. There were balloons, confetti, streamers and a cake. Very romantic, and best birthday ever!

When I got engaged, I know my husband had some help in planning that particular birthday. (Maybe he consulted with Boyfriend.) He came over with balloons and Chinese food in tow and two really nice cards. We watched the Bears on Monday Night Football. They were losing pitifully. Just as he pulled out the ring and popped the question, the Bears started winning! Engagement and a big Bears win! Best birthday ever!

Today, I’m at work—thank God for a job! They’re bringing in pizza for lunch! (That has nothing to do with my birthday.) I feel great and I’m in the best shape of my life. I have a wonderful family and fantastic friends. I don’t take any of this stuff for granted. As I walk to work from the train everyday, I see the same down-on-their-luck folks that I’ve been seeing for years. God’s grace and mercy is awe-inspiring. Later I get to teach a Football for Ladies class. Getting paid to talk about football? How cool is that! I have no complaints. Best. Birthday. Ever.

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What I Did on My Off-Season Vacation

I posted back in February, as I lamented the end of football season, some suggestions for filling up the time. I didn’t want to languish in football withdrawal. My friend Pat and I did some different activities. Pat is my good friend who loves the Bears and football as much as I do. Well, it was a productive off-season.

RushI saw a Chicago Rush game. My take on Arena League Football—it’s just something to do when there’s nothing to do. After 20 years, it still hasn’t fully caught on with the masses. I think it’s something a group of kids would enjoy. They do try to make it very fan-friendly, and I do appreciate the AFL’s mission statement (in part):

We believe that every Fan should receive the very best in competitive football, entertainment, merchandise, food and beverage for their purchasing power.

We believe that every Fan is entitled to interact with and have access to players and coaches for autographs and conversation in recognition of their support at every game.

We believe that Fans are entitled to fast, accurate, and complete information about our players, coaches, league, games, and performance.

We believe that Fans expect the Arena Football League to be comprised of gentlemen and ladies who are examples and role models for youth, free of physical violence, drugs, alcohol, and gambling abuse.

Here that, NFL?

I went to the Dog Show! It was very interesting. Amazing how they get these dogs to stand up straight for extended periods of time. The judges look at everything on the dog—the way it stands, holds its tail, as well as how the dog’s eyes, ears and teeth look. They even look at the poor dog’s behind. It’s also amazing how well-dressed the exhibitors were.  The men were clad in suits and some of the ladies were resplendent in rhinestones and sequins. I wonder if the judges deduct if they wear jeans?

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Now this was really cool—I went to Bottle and Bottega, a place where you go to paint and drink wine. I’ve always been interested in drawing and painting. I loved art in high school. I bought an adult paint-by-numbers set last year (adult as in an advanced image, not porn) but I felt overwhelmed with all the mixing that was involved. All I did was paint the sky and water blue. But this outing was directed, and here’s my painting:

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Cool, huh? Now there was not supposed to be a cat in the painting. Pat decided the image reminded her of how her cat likes to go into the closet, so she stuck the cat in there. I copied from Pat. (A copy cat!) I painted a likeness of Pepper, my cat. The instructor was cool with it, and even suggested we add tails. cat on drums(www.bottleandbottega.com)

Speaking of cats, we saw the Acro-Cats, trained cats who do tricks and play musical instruments. I know it’s silly, but you only live once. It was a very cute show. The cats were on skateboards, they responded to whistles and clickers, and the band was so cool! They also didn’t mind all the humans staring and gawking at them while taking their pictures. And they say you can’t train a cat! (www.circuscats.com)

I went to Washington DC with the husband. It was cool. It definitely wasn’t a chillin’ vacation; we were up and out early every day we were there trying to cram stuff in. We saw most of the stuff we wanted to see. It would take weeks to see everything. I’d like to go back and visit more museums. Can you believe some %%&#** threw green paint on the Lincoln Memorial? Now who has a problem with Lincoln in 2013? Luckily we did get to see the memorial, but they had closed it off for a few hours to try to wash the paint off. That’s a shame—they have these beautiful, noble memorials and monuments unclosed off so people can enjoy them, and some poophole does some crap like that.

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EarlOh, I read a book! First time in about 2 years. The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat by author Edward Kelsey Moore is his inaugural work. This guy has a wonderful style of writing. Amazing how he has totally captured the essences of his main female characters! Each one is funny and nuanced from their past to the present. There’s also a whole town of crazy, quirky, likeable people. The subplots and back stories are marvelously interwoven, and you can follow without getting confused. It’s the kind of book where you get so involved in the characters’ world that you don’t want the book to end. I hope Mr. Moore brings these folks back for an encore. Totally recommend this book.

So now we head back into football season, where it’s all football all the time for the next 6 months. I love football, and you can’t make up some of the player and team idiosyncrasies and dramatics. I also love how my father and I watch the games together every week. (Please see my post, Dad, Football and Me, November 2011) I guess the moral of this story is we should do cool stuff with the people we love all year. And as much as I love football, as do millions of others, perhaps if we don’t let it fill us up so much, we wouldn’t feel so empty when it’s over.

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Disco Ducks

I just watched a two-hour episode of UnSung featuring the Disco Era, the music and the artists. It was very interesting. Being underaged, I lived on the outer fringes of this iconic time period. I bought certain music. I spent all the little money I had on the Saturday Night Fever album. $7.99 for a two-album set. I don’t know which of my friends I saw the movie with, but aside from the dancing, it was actually a very deep movie.

We had just graduated from high school and we were “grown.” We were ready to hit the discos! No more of those Saturday night parties at the local boys’ private school! The nightlife awaited! Clotele and I hung out with Karen in high school. The three of us were always seen together. Karen got a car the summer we graduated. That opened up a whole new world of possibilities. We had fake IDs, so that end was taken care of. The only thing was navigating through Dad’s unreasonable curfew laws. That was the only thing my father and I argued about during my teen years. Curfew. I didn’t want to come in on time. So the best thing for me was to go with Karen and Clotele to a disco when Dad and the stepmother went out of town. The stepbrother was placed in authority, but I didn’t care what he had to say.

One thing about disco attire—you had to be dressed. No jeans. I didn’t have anything that was really disco-ish. I bought a blue leotard to wear with my blue skirt.

The three of us were cruisin’ down Lake Shore Drive on our way to Dingbats, one of the premier Chicago discos of the day. We cleared admission. My first disco! Once inside, we headed to the bar. An actual bar! I remember ordering a Sloe Gin Fizz—my first mixed drink! The music was thumping, the lights were low and the whole place was an alternate reality to my 17-year old mind. The bar, how the people were dressed, how they danced. The dance floor was a thousand steps up from the gym.

Now the interesting thing was that nobody was asking me nor Clotele to dance. Karen seemed to be getting her share of attention, but Clotele and I were just sitting there. If we were at one of the high schools, we’d just go grab one of our friends, or just start dancing and soon a boy would come up and join in. But we couldn’t do that here. Not at Dingbats.  We didn’t dare approach these men. Yet, they weren’t approaching us either. We danced a little, but for the most part, we were on the sidelines watching.

disco

As Clotele’s and my adventures under the disco lights continued throughout the months following graduation, we noticed that this was a disturbing trend.  We would go to different places and were still third string. We clearly were not experiencing Saturday Night Fever. The stepsister, in her condescending manner, intimated that it was my hair, my clothes, I looked too young, etc.

Now it turns out that there was an organization on campus that started throwing Friday afternoon dances in the student center. Clotele and I were very interested in going. This party would be one of our first because we both had jobs after school and couldn’t hang around campus much. We stepped into this party and found yet another world. The world of the college party! A world where people knew our names and were glad to see us! There was no shortage of guys wanting to dance with us! Jeans and t-shirts were totally acceptable!  The guys were down to earth. Clotele even got a boyfriend whom she met at one of the parties, a quite handsome young man who could dance his butt off. There was no bar and people strutting around like peacocks. There was no need for a fake ID—all we needed was to show we were students of the university. We were in our element. Here was where we belonged.

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On Laflin Street: Searching for a New BFF

One day Linda went inside her house and never came back out.

I would go over there to see if she wanted to come out, but she would say, “I’m watching TV.” Okay, the sun is shining bright, it’s 82 degrees and you want to stay in and watch “Let’s Make a Deal?” What???

This had developed into a pattern. Craig and I were perplexed over this behavior. And speaking of Craig—his family was about to move away to a far suburb. I’ll never forget what his mother told me: “Well, Donna, it looks like you’re gonna have to get you some new friends.”

It was a hard realization, but I accepted that. Now Linda and I remained close as ever; I would just go sit inside with her.  We’d talk and laugh for hours. Craig and I wrote letters weekly and talked on the phone a lot. You’d think he moved to Morocco. Really he was less than an hour away, but when you’re 12, it might as well have been on another continent. So as far as hanging out, going places and doing things, new friends had to be incorporated into my life.

I could always easily adapt to new situations. When my mother died, I adapted. When Linda “made a double” and was then a grade ahead of me in school, I adapted. I made friends easily and was able to get along quite well in my new post-Linda classroom situations. I buddied up with Cheryl in 6th grade, Stephanie in 7th, and Rhonda, Marilyn and Jeanette in 8th.  They were cool for talking on the playground during recess and walking back and forth to school. But what’s interesting is none of those friendships stuck. Now I do need to add a word about Carla. Carla and I had been friends since 3rd grade; she hung with Linda and me. Carla, too, made a double, so we weren’t in the same classroom. She lived right behind me on Justine. We became close, but Carla’s family moved away right after 8th grade. (BTW: I was slated to make that same double a year before Carla and Linda. My parents vetoed it. Yay, Mom and Dad!) There also was a forlorn-looking girl who always stood by herself on the playground named Clotele. I don’t really know how Clotele and I became friends, but in high school we were in the same homeroom and were locker partners all four years. We ate lunch together, were in the same classes and she could be trusted. And no two girls partied harder than us in college, fake IDs in tow.

I first saw Donna as she was walking down the alley that divides Laflin and Justine. She was coming home from a Girl Scout meeting. I was playing in my backyard with Carla. Carla and Donna knew each other from Justine. When I started hanging with Carla on Justine, I got to know Donna and the kids on that block. I didn’t really care for the Laflin kids, and I found I really clicked with the Justine kids.

They say that when you are growing up, you have friends by proximity. I had to be with the Laflin kids because they were there. As you get older, you have friends by choice. Those are the important relationships. I chose to go over on Justine. I chose to go over to Donna’s house and hang out with her. The cool thing is she, also, chose me. She would come to my house. She would call me. We went places together. And what’s even cooler—we are close to this hour.

Donna was the one who came outside. We shared experiences. She joined my neighborhood drama class.  And when I started taking acting classes downtown, I could take her around those kids and she would fit right in. We went through the Stupid Boy Thing together. Later, we would go through the Stupid Man Thing together. We pledged the same sorority. We are sisters. Boys, thinking we were lying when they tried to hit on us, would challenge, “How can yall be sisters and have the same name?” We would say, “My mother is not her mother and her father is not my father,” or “When we were born our parents couldn’t afford separate names.” (The goofball we said that to actually believed it.) I was adopted into her family, and my father will kill anyone who says Donna isn’t his daughter. And yes, Donna’s mother features prominently in my wedding pictures standing next to my husband, my father and me. There are also very cool pictures of me, Donna and Clotele—my only bridesmaids—laughing at the reception. My brother Craig made sure things moved along smoothly that day.

I haven’t seen Linda in many moons. Not my choice. I assume she’s fine. If she wasn’t, I’d hear about it. I have indirect links to her family. However, some people are in your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Let’s hear it for the Lifetimers.

Recent pics of Donna, Ebon Craig* and me                                        Clotele and Donna

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*Craig recently legally changed his first name to Ebon Craig.

 

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