Donna C. Terrell

I Was Just Thinkin'

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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