Monthly Archives: November 2022

The One and Only: Stevie Wonder

We were both born in the city of Detroit in the same year of 1950. He made his entry into the world four months before me. The difference? The world knows him, but they do not know me. He is the one and only Stevie Wonder or Stevie Wonderful. We first heard of him when his song Fingertips came out right after our family arrived in Chicago. 

Somehow, we ended up being a part of The Great Migration by traveling north after leaving the Jim Crow southern city of Memphis. My father, a northern-born man, had gone back south to retrieve his family. He had gone ahead of us after trying to deal with working in the South. He got a job in Chicago, an apartment in Woodlawn and a car with his sister’s assistance and came back to get us. 

So, as we tearfully settled down at 6140 So. Kenwood and new friends and music saved us. Stevie sang Fingertips and later, My Cherie Amour as Motown made its debut in everyone’s hearts and put the Motor City on the map. And thus, Stevie Wonder has been and still is one of the steady musical backdrops of my life. 

Quite like a dependable friend, he has always been there with a new song to help me remember the major and pivotal points of my life. He is like the tick marks on a number line. I could easily add a year above each song and tell anyone where I was and what I was doing at that time. 

When I moved into my first apartment in 1972, I think of songs like Been So Long or lyrics like, ‘Mary wants to be a superwoman and try to boss the bull around…” Then the song moves into a slow heart-warming tempo that asks,” Where were you when I needed you last winter? My love?” The hits and albums kept rolling like loose tires down a hill. We sang to albums like Talking Book , Fullingness First Finale and Innervisions, to name a few. 

I woke up many mornings singing, “You always creep into my dreams,” or “Boogie on Reggae woman.” As life moved forward, Stevie’s music played in the background whether washing the dishes, moving to another apartment, driving to work or even trying to make sense of a tattered love affair. 

And then, quite like a revolution? Boom. In late 1976, he had the audacity to create an album with two records. And this was pre-CD’s, so there were two LPs, in his album Songs in the Key of Life. And my, it was so much material that everyone could find something to love such as Mister Know it All or As. I was also going through a revolution because I decided to quit my teaching job and make a quantum leap. I headed to the Deep South to attend graduate school at a HBCU. 

Later in the 80’s when I settled down in Memphis again, he had mellowed even more. I think of lyrics such as, “These three words” and other love songs like Part-Time Lover. And boom. We heard he was coming to town. I do not remember the location of the venue, but they had him on a circular stage and he went around as he sang.

My friend Michelle later said, “I touched him.” I was like, “What?” She said, “I touched him.’” He had walked pass us as he entered the one level room, so she was like the woman who touched Jesus. I shook my head and I guess that he is used to it whenever people can get close enough to steal a touch. 

The Steve Wonder stories could go on and on, but after seeing him this past Sunday on the American Music Awards, I was inspired to write this piece. He still looks great and revealed his great sense of humor when he told Wayne Brady to, “Begone” as he was talking to him outside of his dressing room. Surely his ability to laugh at life has kept him young and he can safely rest on his laurels from now on! 

Lynn M. 
November 26, 2022 

Attempts at French!

While reading Book 3 of Beth Haslam’s Fat Dogs and French Estates, she triggered a memory for me when she decided to take a French class before moving to the south of France. Her new instructor was firm and reminded her to speak in French only ‘ou parler en français seulement.’ It made me think of my many attempts to learn the language and I basically never got there. 

In high school, I took four years of French. My teacher, Ms. Nessman was kind and named me Margarite’, the most French version for my middle name, Margarita.  We spent countless hours in the foreign language lab in our headphones while listening to French dialogues and scripts. We conjugated verbs until the proverbial cows came home. But I still could not converse with a person in French other than saying hello, my name or goodbye. I probably can write it better than I can speak it because I understand the layout of the language which is like English as a Romantic language. 

In college, I took a couple of French courses. One woman catered to those who sat close to her in the front of the room and spent most of her time teaching the French map. But when I left there, could I have a conversation in French? Non. However, I can locate cities on the map of France as I follow Beth Haslam’s journeys through the country.  So, I should thank the teacher.

Years, hence, I was able to take a couple of free classes while teaching at Chicago State University in the early 90’s. I chose French and Modern Dance. My French instructor was a young woman from Senegal, and she too was steeped in the textbook version of learning the verbs. We loved her but I only had one semester with her. Perhaps if I had had more time under her instruction, my French would have taken off. Yet to no avail, I was not ready to have a conversation with anyone from France.  

Eventually, someone realized the fact that the textbook versions of the language were not working. Not everyone was able to afford the Berlitz immersion classes so, finally conversational classes emerged. Aha, I thought. Later, while working as a librarian at South Suburban College, I took a Conversational French class. I really wanted to learn and stayed after work to further study French. 

My instructor first reminded me that I was no longer to be addressed as Mademoiselle but would be called Madame due to my age, married or not. Great, I thought. That was a real confidence booster. Anyhoo, she did her best and I do recall us labeling furniture pieces in rooms on a graphic page to enhance our French vocabulary. She also spoke in French during class. 

Her efforts were not lost because I did leave her class with enough confidence to go ahead and purchase a ticket to France when the opportunity presented itself. When I got there, I tried using the phrase, je voudrais (I want) at a McDonalds. They looked at me as if I was an alien that had just dropped down from Mars. They talked amongst themselves to figure out what to do. So, I resorted to pointing to what I wanted. 

And that is how I spent the rest of my trip. I operated as a mute who pointed and spent a lot of time in my room. The man on the hotel staff tried to give me a lift and confidence booster and told me to at least try. I met another American who told me that she just pointed to what she wanted. We laughed. Luckily, the staff at the hotel and nearby train station where I got daily directions both spoke in several languages. 

I took several stabs at the steak of learning French. I had a host of teachers who had limited time to share the language they already knew. I believe that living in a bilingual environment is the real answer to mastering another language. Or perhaps, teach it to the very young child because as the saying goes, It’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks

Lynn M. 
November 23, 2022 

An Abundant Life!

Abundance is a state of mind, 
It gathers when we are most kind. 

Yes, dollars and wealth are a part, 
But a warm heart helps map the chart. 

Some have much money in the bank, 
But can’t cope when emotions tank. 

A clear conscience, strong faith and love, 
Help balance life like a sweet dove! 

Lynn M. 
November 19, 2022 

Venting Safely!

Solo librarians can be like bartenders! People often come into their workspaces and bear their souls. Quite like the patient bartender who has heard many a tale, so has the solo librarian. I say solo librarian because if staff members walk by and see that there is no class in the library, they may stop and chat.

An empty library can be like an oasis with a silent welcoming wave whispering, “Come on in.” Those staff members may respectfully stand but they fill the empty room with their thoughts and feelings as they voice their concerns during their few available minutes.

In my case, they were all welcome into the library for none had a beef with me. They just saw this as a grand opportunity to say what they needed to say. Their vents ranged from job situations to personal concerns. They just needed a place to breathe deeply, get whatever out in the open and gather a new point of view. Yes, a think-aloud.

It has been said that if a person can vent and hear his or her own thoughts, they can find a solution. Whether they were talking about things that caused deep angst or merely reflecting on past events, they were able to purge a little, hear themselves think and unburden their souls.

Listening is a skill that many simply do not possess. They look as if they hear, but they are simply waiting on their turn to speak. Good listeners will interject comments in all the right places and the speaker knows that they have truly been heard. The responses are timely, noteworthy and thought-provoking.

And very importantly, there is a silent trust and confidence, and the speakers feel certain that the conversation will not be repeated up and down the corridors and hallways of the building. Nor will it be put on social media nor any other public format. What is said in the room stays in the room.

So, quite like the bartender who continually polishes the glasses or rearranges the bottles along the shelves, the solo librarian continually reshelves books or works on the inventory while the speaker speaks. As the person is promenading back and forth while unloading, they get it out of their systems knowing that their words will stay safely tucked inside the walls of that space. Afterwards, they can sigh and continue on!

Lynn M.
November 12, 2022

Church Homes!

As a young child in Detroit, I used to watch my father get ready for church. To me, he seemed to be his happiest. He shined his shoes as he got ready and I remember him tying down his hair with a white handkerchief to make certain that he looked his best. 

It was an era when people of color genuinely believed in dressing up in their Sunday best to honor and worship the Lord. He also sang as we prepared to go to church. Those were happy times for our family. We lived in a house out in Wayne, but we drove into Detroit for church services.

There was a high ledge outside of the church that we children balanced ourselves on as we played. I slightly remember the services and the music, but I do strongly remember going into breakout rooms in the basement. I will never forget when we once bobbed for apples. There was a huge tub on the floor filled with water and apples. We had to hold our arms behind us and get on our knees and try to bite down on an apple and make it our own. It was a challenge and I do not recall succeeding in getting an apple. 

Church has been an important part of my life over the years. Going to church and listening to spirituals offer nourishment for the soul. The songs alone have helped me to hold on and keep the faith until the tide changes when things are looking bleak. It is the human condition to feel uncertain when working through a problem. Those songs help me to know that “every problem has a solution” as Stevie Wonder sang in You Will Know.”

With those early lessons in mind, I have made it a top priority to find a church home whenever I anchor down in a new city. I have attended Hillside Chapel in Atlanta; Unity and First Church of Religious Science (readings) in Memphis; Christ Universal Temple in Chicago and Christian Science in Boston and currently.  All of the beliefs and principles have helped to shape me into the person that I am today.

Thank goodness many churches now stream online when we cannot get to a physical church building. YouTube is also filled with great gospel and spiritual songs ranging from the old-school or traditional to the newer inspirational artists. The bottom line is to keep the faith and to find whatever the soul needs to keep the feelings of despair at bay. Whether it is hearing a good sermon, listening to a powerful choir, or picking up a good self-help book or pamphlet, it is imperative to find a healthy balance. I have followed in my father’s footsteps and as Robert Frost wrote in The Road Not Taken,And that has made all the difference.” 

Lynn M.
November 5, 2022

November Morn!

The clear November morning, 
Creeps into my window like a mist. 

Birds chirp softly bidding us farewell, 
Before their winter flights to warmer places.

I hear gentle and subtle nudges whispering, 
“This is the way. Walk ye in it.” 

Thus, I continue my ever-meandering journey, 
Going forward to meet more good, without a backward glance. 

Lynn M. 
November 2, 2022