Donna C. Terrell

I Was Just Thinkin'

On Laflin Street: It Was So Divine

One day, Linda says to Craig and me with an air of superiority, “ I just got baptized. I’m a Christian.” Okay… what did that mean? Now I knew Linda and her family went to church every Sunday. But what was this Christian thing Linda spoke of?

Whatever it was, it had to be a good thing. I decided that every word that proceeded out of the mouth of Linda was true because she was a Christian. Craig and I discussed this at great length, and we decided that we, too, had to become Christians. We needed to get baptized like Linda. But how? When?

Now at some point Linda’s church was having a summer Vacation Bible School. That was when all the neighborhood kids would go to church for 2 weeks in the morning and do arts and crafts, sing songs, eat snacks and learn Bible stories. It was a lot of fun. Linda, Craig and I attended. Every day, at the end of each session, the kids would be invited to join the church and get baptized. Baptized! This is our in! We could be Christians like Linda! Craig and I decided that when the invitation was given, we were going to join the Christian jubilee!

So the appointed time came. The kids our age were seated in the choir stand. The invitation was given to join the church as well as the family of God. I proudly stood up to make my way down to the floor. I noticed that Craig wasn’t standing. I got down to the floor and I looked up in the choir stand and Craig was still there. “C’mon, Craig!” He had his arms folded defiantly across his chest and shook his head. Again, I urged him to come with me. Craig refused. Fine.  I couldn’t believe he would back out of our agreement. I shook my fist at him and went on anyway. I got baptized about a week later. I was very excited. I joined New Hope Baptist Church and became a Christian. I decided that since I was now a Christian, I shouldn’t tell any more fibs to my mother. And one day I got a chance to put my newfound beliefs to the test.

We were all pretty cool with each other in my 4th grade classroom, having been together since 1st and 2nd grade. As I look back on it, we had to have been the high-achieving group, because the things we did and the privileges we had are just not done for kids who act up and can’t handle it.  One day, a new girl came to our class. This girl, Sandra, invited us all to her birthday party.

Sandra lived on Elizabeth, which was a ways east of my street. My father drove me to her house and was going to pick me up in a couple of hours. Most of my classmates were there. Linda didn’t go to this particular party. Now Sandra had an older sister. This sister was in charge of the games, Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey, Musical Chairs, and other standard birthday fare. At some point, this sister decided to make us play kissing games.

What was she trying to do to us? Kissing games? Oh, no, no, no.  Remember, we were the smart group. We now knew something was unsavory about Sandra and her big sister and we weren’t having it. We decided en masse to walk out of Sandra’s birthday party, which had taken a turn for the weird.

So my classmates and I were standing in front of Sandra’s house, and by then it had gotten dark. We were deciding who was going to go home with whom. It turns out that most of this group all lived over that way. AND it turned out that the boys decided that they were ALL going to walk Iris home! Iris was one of the darlings of the class. Now Tyrone could have walked home with me because he lived on Ashland, but it was known that he liked Iris. (But he still wasn’t at the kissing stage.) So, I had to walk all the way back to Laflin by myself. In the dark.

I put my fear aside, and I walked down 116th street like my mother always instructed me to do. She figured if anything ever happened, I could always run to the homes of people that she knew. I also remembered that I’m a Christian! Jesus is not going to let anything happen to me!

My parents were absolutely shocked when I walked in the door. You walked home in the dark by yourself? Why didn’t you call??? I told them about that stupid party. When I got to school the next day, my classmates surrounded me. I was a hero of sorts for having walked home that far by myself. I let them know (and I was not superior-sounding) that I wasn’t scared because I was a Christian!


On Laflin Street: The Throne of Games


We were three peas in a pod, Linda, Craig and me, back on Laflin in our idyllic world of the late 60s. We lived next door to each other; 3 houses all in a row. We played together every day, and not your average run-of-the-mill games. Oh, we would condescend to playing Hide and Seek, Captain May I? and Red Light with the other kids on the block. But when we were in our backyards, we made up games—cool games that came out of the soul of raw creativity. These games could last the whole afternoon. Once, someone threw away a large box. That box became a houseboat for us.  We sailed on our houseboat for a day or two until the garbage men hauled it away. Needless to say, we were heartbroken and land-lubbed, but that didn’t stop us. We were onto the next thing.

The three of us loved comic books. Linda and I were partial to the Archie series. Comic books were cheap—only 12 cents! And you could get them out of a machine! We also liked Spiderman. Craig introduced Linda and me to Justice League America and the Superman series.  We would assume our favorite JLA character and play Super Heroes on my patio. I was always Black Widow. I remember my mother buying me a Casper the Friendly Ghost comic book. (Casper? Seriously?) Clearly she didn’t understand my need to rid the world of vermin. Once I brought home a Batman comic book because the machine was out of JLA. Linda and Craig looked at me like I was crazy. Guess Batman was unacceptable. You know I wasn’t about to mention the Casper faux pas.

The Cloud Game was an exceptionally magical game. It took up all three of our unfenced-in backyards. I don’t know exactly what we did in that game, I just remember there were different kinds of clouds that represented different worlds. In my imagination’s eye, I saw each of the worlds we created. We saw ourselves floating and sitting on and flying around the clouds. That game lasted an entire afternoon, and it was the one game we were never able to replicate.

When I saw on the news that someone had killed themself by jumping out of a window, I was absolutely horrified. I reported this to Linda and Craig. How could this be? Why would someone want to do that? We concluded that for that unfortunate person, life had to be pretty dull. Thus, the game “Life Is Dull” was born. That game would always revolve around scenarios where a person would die of sheer boredom. But we always came back to life!

“The Lucky Food Hour” was a game show where the contestant made really atrociously creative cuisine, like barbecued yak with zebra brains, or an elephant cake. One would pretend to cook the food, the other would be the game show host and the last of us would be the screaming, cheering audience member who got to taste the culinary delight. We would have been shoo-ins for The Next Food Network Star!

Now we played board games, and I taught Linda and Craig how to play Solitaire after my father taught me. We played Dodge Ball, Kick Baseball and Piggy with the other kids. Linda and I loved Double Dutch and Hopscotch. Craig had a gift for gymnastics and we would turn cartwheels and build human pyramids. But nothing took the place of our own creations. Life was never dull for us.

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