Monthly Archives: July 2022

Haute Couture!

In the movie, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, Mrs. Harris is a cleaning woman in 1957 London. She is a widow and in living in sparse conditions and one day she sees a designer dress in one of her client’s closets and falls in love with it. Each day, she admires its beauty and wants one for herself. She starts thinking of ways that she could go to Paris to visit one of the fashion houses.

She and a friend go to the dog races and she bets all of her money on a greyhound called Haute Couture.  He stops mid-race and she is devastated. But then a series of events heave good fortune her way. She receives a surprise military pension back pay from her late husband, the man from the betting booth at the dog race returns her lost money and she receives a reward for returning an expensive piece of jewelry that she found on the street.

She decides to book a flight to Paris and has an abundance of cash on hand. Once there, she finds her way to the House of Christian Dion with the help of some local guys from the station. Of course, she doesn’t fit in with the high-end fashion clientele, but once they discover that she has cash, they are willing to work with her. And, a debonair gentleman asks her to be his guest at the fashion show when he sees that she is being ostracized by the others.

The fashions are breathtakingly beautiful and when she sees the dress she wants, a well-known snob sitting next to her bids on the dress first. She is forced to make another choice, but soon discovers that they make each dress for the buyer. Thus, she needs to stay in Paris for at least another week.

Things work out because one of the young workers has an extra bedroom and she is even allowed to wear his sister’s clothes. She enjoys Paris, is wined and dined and even hits a few hot spots. There are a lot of twists and turns but she makes friends and even encourages the workers to voice their concerns to Mr. Dior. She ultimately leaves with her tailored gown in tow.

Watching this movie reminded me of my own roots with fabric. With two designer sisters who could make coats and wedding gowns without a pattern, many memories flourished as I watched Mrs. Harris tour the fashion house. The cutters, the button sewers, the fitters all made me remember the hours that I painstakingly waited as a child as my mother slowly turned the pages in the huge pattern books at the fabric stores. I was so bored, but quite like osmosis, my first piece of furniture was a Singer sewing machine in a cabinet when I moved into my first apartment.

This movie was a great escape and I am happy that I caught it before it left the big screen. As the credits rolled at the end, they creatively put fashion designs on both sides of the screen. They changed every few seconds quite like a display window. Mrs. Harris ultimately discovered that there is no place like home where she returned to find even greater joy.

In the African American culture, when one visits the Mother Land (Africa), the best gift upon return for a true friend is a piece of fabric. Once that fabric is unrolled, there are so many possibilities.  Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris was another golden nugget in my 2022 summer adventures!

Lynn M.
July 30, 2022

Wooden Pieces!

The other day, I ventured into the lumber department of Home Depot. I had a creative project in mind. Others watched as I browsed the area with a level of ease because there were no other women visible at that time. 

As I found what I was looking for, a memory resurfaced from my past childhood. In the mid-50’s, our family lived at 12 East Fay in Memphis, Tennessee. There were six of us with four girls and of course our two parents. We had a small house at the end of the street and next door? There was a lumber yard. 

So, all those sawmill smells and memories rolled forth at the same time as I looked at wooden planks in the store. We not only lived next door to the lumber yard entry, but we took it one step further as children. We used to walk through the lumber yard to go to Southgate Mall, mostly to probably buy candy. Back then, we could choose the candy of our choice, and have it weighed and put in a little, small bags.  

Interestingly, each of us had different tastes and we left happy after leaving the store, Katz. The store’s logo was a sign of a huge cat that hung high outside. There were several other shops in the mall including a Pic Pac or Kroger grocery store. There were sometimes small carnivals for children with rides held there and stationed in the mall’s parking lot. 

Somehow, we never got lost when we used the lumber yard as a shortcut. I suspect that our father showed us the way and depended on my oldest sister, Cheryl, to lead us through safely. When we emerged from the winding path through the lumber yard, it was like re-entering civilization whether we were going to the mall or returning home. 

Thus, wood has and still plays a special role in my life. My father had an on-going workshop where he built things such as cabinets or tables. We sometimes had to sit on one side of the plank as he sawed and worked on getting his specifications down to perfection. Later in my life, I even purchased an unfinished roll-top desk and had a good time sanding it and adding shellac to give it the finishing touches. Thankfully, I had a pair of helping hands to get the job done. 

So, as an adult, I gleefully embrace the daintiness of choosing choice fabrics for house decorations like my mother or maintaining a skeleton tool case like my father. There must be a screwdriver, a hammer, a wrench, some nails and screws and yes, a paintbrush and some shellac on hand at the home front. It takes all the particles and pieces of our lives to make a composite whole. 

 Every snippet of life is a story, and we all have trillions of life events that emerge as we make daily choices. Sometimes, we must get still to remember why we like what we like and why certain things are easy for us. Who would have thought that down in Dixie where Cotton Was King, there would be a lumber yard that made a huge impact on this appreciator of wood? 

Lynn M. 
July 23, 2022 

Vegas: Life Off the Strip

Most people know Las Vegas for its night life and shows on the strip, but believe it or not, many live there who go about everyday life and rarely go on the famous strip. I spent four months there with my older sister in the summer of 1997. I only saw Vegas at night one time when another sister came and while with her, I ventured to gamble only two dollars in the slot machine as I watched she and her friend play the gambit. 

But there is another entire side that most visitors do not see or even think about while in the city of lights and fun. After arriving there, I found a temp agency called Apple One Employment Services. I like to have my own money and thus my own independence. So, I was sent on a host of jobs such as working at a toy company sorting small items, answering phones at a real estate company, helping at a printing company, as a receptionist at Wells Fargo Bank and my longest job was filing medical folders at Sunrise Hospital, where I met a woman from Chicago, who later became my lifeline. 

The biggest challenge for me was getting to the job locations. First, it was hot. Second, the buses ran once an hour so if I missed it, ‘Oh well!” My sister helped me figure out the bus schedules and I kept one handy. Her apartment was around Spring Mountain and Wynn which did have a swim pool. I often walked to a nearby Chinese grocery store to get items, or I went a little further to buy fresh bread at a Hostess Bread place. 

People were kind and helpful as I traveled in the hot desert. It always felt foreign to me, as a Midwesterner, used to flat land as I looked at the nearby mountains. Two thoroughfares which helped me regain my bearings were both Rainbow Boulevard and Paradise Road. Once, I reached one of those, I could navigate my way back home. 

Las Vegas is a piece of Americana that holds different memories for each person. Some see it as a big playground where they frolic, drive fancy cars and live it up as in Elvis’ song Viva Las Vegas. I remember seeing Natalie Cole’s name every day on one the marquees either at The Flamingo or Ceasar’s Palace. I know that it sat on a corner close to Bally’s. Once I ventured into the shops around Bally’s and I saw a white suede pant suit. It was beautiful and it made me want to cry because I couldn’t take it home! That boutique had some memorable pieces, and some had that Native American influence. Also, there was a lot of turquoise jewelry there and I am certain that came from that entire Southwestern region. 

To keep myself anchored, I listened to Chuck Swindoll’s radio broadcasts and attended a church every Sunday which was a division of Ernest Holmes’ Church of the Religious Science. It was close to the University of Las Vegas (UNLV) campus which I did explore in detail one day. When I was feeling overly anxious one time, the minister, Dr. Carlo, merely said to me, “God is still creating.” I thought that he was being quite cavalier, but now, all these years later, I see that he was right. 

While visiting the friend that I had met on the job from Chicago, I was sitting in her living room, and she descended the stairs giving me the news about Princess Diana. It’s one of those things that you always remember exactly where you were when you received the news. Time froze for a few moments. She was a Buddhist and at her invitation, we both kneeled before her Buddhist altar, held beads and chanted for a period, until we felt calmer. 

At the end of the summer, I flew back to Chicago to the Hyde Park area to rejoin my mother. I put Vegas in my rear-view mirror, went on to work in the Loop, catching buses and carrying on.  I was happy to once again be on flat Midwestern soil. Yet, I must say, “Viva Las Vegas made me all the wiser! 

Lynn M. 
July 15, 2022 


When tragedy strikes, we should become still and let the silence permeate our beings. We should speak less and listen more for instructions from on High. Women, especially, have been known down through history to wail or scream when the unthinkable happens in their lives. We have all heard of the wailing walls.

 And then, we hear of men who moan in their sleeps as their souls look for some sense of release from pain. They have too often had to display a stiff upper lip and give off the appearance that they are strong and not hurting.

We all process anguish, feelings of helplessness, shock and disbelief in different ways when we see our children being killed in front of our eyes. We feel anger, rage and we need to know what to do with these harsh emotions.

So, it is okay to cry. It is okay to be angry.  It is okay to scream and yes, it is okay to even wail.  In Edwidge Danticat’s book, Breath, Eyes, Memory, Sophie, the main character, screamed and cried after losing her mother. When the tears subsided, her grandmother asked, in essence, “Are you now free?” This was a telling lesson in the grief process.

In the South, when someone died, the elders became very quiet. No televisions. No radio. Few, if any words. Though the thoughts were plenteous, the spoken words were minimal. The children knew to be quiet or to be absent and away from the sorrowful adults.

So, after being wet with tears and soaked in perspiration and after witnessing lives being shattered like shards glass, we must pause. Quite like emerging from a long shower, we dry off and stand up. We move forward with a calm resolve, as we are more mindful and recall how our ancestors handled their grief. We walk on at a mourner’s pace, but being in the present moment, we can least offer the next needed hug.

Lynn M.
July  8, 2022

Elvis: A Sidebar

The year was 1956. My mother, me and my three sisters, had recently arrived in Memphis. We came down from Detroit where we four were born. She was leaving my father, or so she thought but as in Little Bo Peep, he showed up soon, wagging his tail behind him. 

We were thrust into a segregated town where blacks lived on one side and whites on the other. The one thing that we had in common? Elvis Presley reigned supreme. We all rocked to his You Ain’t Nothing but A Hound Dog or Get Off of my Blue Suede Shoes. Women of both colors swooned when he sang Are You Lonesome Tonight? Love Me Tender or Falling in Love with You. Or many cried with him as he sang Crying in the Chapel, to name a few. 

On our side of town, we soon learned to enjoy events such as The Cotton Carnival or going to colored theatres like The Old Daisy or The New Daisy. We even advanced to the integrated show called The Malco (now The Orpheum). Children of color climbed the fire escape in the rear, entered the back and sat in the balcony. Whites sat on the lower level and kids being kids, sometimes dropped popcorn on their heads from up above. There, I remember seeing the movies Tamango and The Defiant Ones with Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis.

We had the radio stations, WLKO and WDIA with deejay Rufus Thomas. His daughter, Carla Thomas, had her one hit, Gee Whiz! But despite that, it was a well-known fact that Elvis was the one who put Memphis on the map in the mid-50’s. It was like the painting on the wall. It is there as a huge backdrop. We knew he had a mansion on the then, Bellevue, (later renamed Presley Boulevard) but we did not see it from our side of town.  

Then, fast forward. We left Memphis in 1963 and moved on to Chicago. I did not think of Elvis that much anymore though I always liked his slower songs. His gospels, which few people know, are quite spirited as well. And, then as fate would dictate, I returned to the South in 1977. When he passed in August of 1977, I was in Mississippi, his birth state, attending grad school. It was a stunner and one of those events where you remember where you were when you received the news. 

But was it over? Not really. I returned to Memphis in 1980 and stayed for another 10 years as an adult. Again, though he was no longer with us on this earthly plane, his spirit remained and remains. Every August, around his death date, the radios played his music for days. If I remember correctly, Colonel Parker was still around and wielding his power.  

Then, I got a job as a bookseller at Waldenbooks in the early 80’s. It was in Southland Mall, and I had to drive by Graceland every day. There were always world tourists on both sides of the highway, and I just knew to slow down until I passed that crowded location. I could easily see the Lisa Marie, his airplane, parked across the street from the white-gated Graceland

And, yes, though Memphis was much less segregated, going to Graceland was just not a black thing, for many reasons. Yet, Elvis impacted us all in so many ways. I think about some of the clothes my Memphis cousins have worn, which reflect Elvis. His hair styles, his choice of clothing, his highly ornate belts and so much of him are still so Memphis, though some may not admit it. 

In the 80’s, the famous Beale Street was still and is still a Memphis hot spot. We often left work at a nearby college to order the fried chitterlings. Or on weekends, we went down to Blues Alley or W.C. Handy Park. All those places are still just as crowded today as it was portrayed in the new Elvis movie, which inspired this writing. 

There are so many stories for those who grew up there in the shadow of Elvis’ greatness. I still watch his movies when they come on and I certainly enjoy his music whenever I hear it being played. I lot of people say he staged his death to get out of the abusive concert bookings. For years in the early 80’s, there were multiple Elvis sightings. Often, people would say they saw him up around the Michigan area. This was a regular conversation in Memphis back then, but that is the stuff of legends. They are always surrounded by rumors, myths, suppositions and wonderings.  

I was the last one to leave the theatre when I went to see the new Elvis movie the other day. I like to read the credits for lots of reasons. But at the end, they showed the real Elvis, though both Austin Butler (Elvis) and Tom Hanks (Colonel Parker) were quite superb. When Elvis sang his last song with his eyes wide open, I was mesmerized. I lingered so long because it was like saying goodbye all over again. Rest in peace EP. 

Lynn M.
July 1, 2022