Donna C. Terrell

I Was Just Thinkin'

On Christmas and Coming of Age


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


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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