Jeffery Manor!

The other day, I saw that there was a fire at a townhouse in Chicago’s Jeffery Manor neighborhood. My ears perked up and wonderful memories flowed back like the ebb and tide of a sea. I took some time away from the rush of information coming in from both the media and social media and I allowed myself to simply remember.

It was 1970.  My three sisters had all married, so it was just me, Momma and Daddy in the nest. He found this beautiful townhouse with three floors which included a full basement. We moved from a spacious apartment on 70th and Vernon on Chicago’s southside. It was the place where all three sisters had flown the proverbial coop and joined into matrimony with  their respective significant others.

Thus, the three of us moved further south on 100th and Luella into the gorgeous Jeffery Manor. It was a haven back then. After crossing 95th Street while traveling south on Jeffery Street, there was an inviting calm with overhanging trees and singing birds. It was comparable to entering into a quiet zone of beauty after leaving the noise and chaos of everyday Chicago.

I was still in college and I always felt a certain warmth as I drove home after leaving campus, which was back on 68th and Stewart at that time.  I felt peace as I re-entered Jeffery Manor. My parents were in a good place then as he worked for the city and she taught elementary school. They often took weekend trips and rented a cabin in Michigan and I was left home alone, loving every minute of my freedom.

Thinking back, there were two fashionable boutiques both owned by black women and I regularly frequented both of them. Jackie’s  was off of 100th Street and in walking distance from home. And Now Posey was owned by the illustrious  Mrs. Posey and located on Jeffery south of 95th Street. Both women kept me dressed in high fashion, and quite true of most boutiques, they only purchased one size per style. In that way, there were fewer chances of seeing someone else wearing the same outfit during those outings. Oh, those were the days!

I graduated college while we lived in Jeffery Manor and happened upon my first teaching job at nearby Fenger High School on 112th and Wallace. I went in to inquire about a job and someone had already quit that day.  Voila! So the dance began and I must admit that I received quite a few speeding tickets trying to get to work on time until I had to do extra Saturday driving workshops. That helped me to slow my roll.

During my first year of teaching, my parents did not ask me for a dime. So, I spent my checks on clothes and jewelry at places like the Sears Store on 79th Street off of Stony Island. The store was humongous back then. They even had a full service car center attached in the back. It was a place that fulfilled all needs from clothes, to appliances to tires and repairs for the cars. 

So many precious memories surface as I recall our days in Jeffery Manor. My beau at the time, Gene, had a really loud car and we all knew when he was pulling up in the driveway. He and Daddy got along like two peas in a pod and he was like the son that Daddy didn’t have. When I got angry, I told Daddy that he liked Gene more than me.  He just laughed.

It was the last place that I lived with my parents because in 1972, I finally flew the coop and got my first place on Cheltenham Place  in South Shore.  It was a nice, safe place and the couple that ran the place lived on the premises. Their presence made a huge difference and that was once a regular thing where the janitor and his family lived on the grounds.

But right before we parted ways, there was a newspaper article that shocked us. We were living a few doors down from the townhouse where Richard Speck had killed those nurses. I used to walk past the VFW Hall all the time not knowing that it is where he supposedly hung out. And true to the story, our townhouse also had a ledge, which is where the surviving nurse had hidden. She was like Ishmael in Moby Dick and left to tell the story.

After I left home, my parents moved not too far away to 98th and Yates also in 1972. They were still in Jeffery Manor and they had another townhouse. It was also very nice and owned by a firefighter whom my father liked and respected. By then, my mother was teaching at Goldsmith Elementary School which was a few blocks away. And Daddy’s work base as a City of Chicago Department of Sanitation driver was off of 103rd and Doty Road.

So, they were fine, had levels of peace and it was the last stop of their 34-year journey before his passing in 1979.  When I think of Jeffery Manor, I exhale and say, “Ah!”

Lynn M.
March 25, 2023

Champions: A 2023 Movie

I recently saw the 2023 movie Champions with Woody Harrelson as Marcus, a minor league basketball coach who is fired from his job for calling plays against the head coach, Phil (Ernie Hudson). He goes out to a bar and has one too many which results in a car crash. This lands him in court with a DUI charge. The woman judge gives him two options: either face considerable jail time or coach the Friends, a developmentally-delayed group of basketball players.

 His former coach had previously accused him of not getting to know his players personally and making real connections. This time, if he wants to win during his 90-day community service stint, he realizes that he must get to know the players.  He discovers that many of them live together in a group home and have jobs and unique talents. The team’s best player refuses to play for him and shakes his head and says, “Nope,” each time he sees Marcus. That is a mystery and something that Marcus will come to understand over time.

Quite by coincidence, Marcus already knows Jonathan’s (Kevin Iannucci) older sister, Kaitlin Olson (Alex) and that relationship had not gotten off to a good start. He realizes that he has a lot of work to do. The team has to take public transportation to the games and at one point, the bus driver leaves them on the side of the road due to their several idiosyncrasies. Fortunately, Alex, also a Shakespearean actor has her own van and agrees to become their driver. The bonding and relationship-building begin during their road trips.

They even travel all the way from Iowa to Winnipeg, for the Special Olympic Games.  The most hilarious member is Consentino (Madison Tevlin) who is a sassy, out-spoken girl that keeps the boys in line and makes them face their fears. She once retorted to a screaming coach, “I’m not deaf. I have Down’s Syndrome!”

At times, Champions is a feel good movie with a few drawbacks. It is rated PG-13 so some of the intimate scenes and the profanity could have been toned down or even eliminated for those young sensitive eyes and ears. It is based on a 2018 Spanish film called Campeones by Javier Fesserand David Marques, which also gives a voice to this special community. Ultimately, love conquers all and Marcus grows to become a more feeling coach as he sees his players as people with lives and personal stories!

Lynn M.
March 21, 2023

The Quiet Girl: Film to Book

After seeing the Oscars, I went to see The Quiet Girl on the big screen. It is set in Ireland and centers around a nine-year old girl’s life. It is spoken in Gaelic, a dying language still spoken in rural Ireland. Cait (Catherine Clinch) often wanders off and hides and the movie opens with her sisters looking for her as she lays still in a field.

And thus the story continues as she decides to go home to a house filled with children and a pregnant mother. She hides under her bed with no sheets and it is clear that she is a bed-wetter. The family is both poor and over-stretched for room and peace.  She has trouble reading at school and other students taunt her and tell her sisters that she is weird.  Then she overhears her parents saying that she is going away to her mother’s cousin’s home for the summer. The mother says that she can go forever as far as she is concerned. 

Her father drives her and he is clearly short-tempered, drinks heavily and even picks up some woman he knows as they drive to the cousin’s home. Once at the Kinsella’s wealthy home, they reluctantly receive her but the wife, Eibhlin is attentive. She takes Cait under her wing, bathes her, brushes her hair counting up to 100 strokes, teaches her to cook and gives her clothes from a nearby closet. Eibhlin sees that Cait is a bed wetter and after a discussion, Cait asks her if she should keep it a secret. She tells her that there are no secrets in their household and says that where there are secrets, there is shame.

This is the first subtle implication that there may have been some molestation going on and it is understood by Eibhlin. The nurturing continues and the father finally warms to Cait and he too, teaches her how to work on the farm. He times her daily as she runs down the long lane to the mailbox and he helps her with her reading. Through a neighbor’s gossip, Cait discovers that the Kinsellas’ son had drowned and that she has been wearing the dead boy’s clothes.

They take her shopping, doll her up, love her and singing and affection return to the grief-stricken Kinsellas. When the summer ends, she returns home and the audience’s hearts probably dropped, as mine did at that moment. She enters her home of poverty and her family members stand back and look at her in awe. She could never fit in. She sprints and runs to chase the Kinsellas’ car and catches them. It ends with Mr. Kinsella picking her up and holding her and his wife sobs in the car. Her real father has followed her and she can see him  over Kinsella’s shoulder. She is saying,”Daddy,” either to warn Kinsella or perhaps saying, you have been a real daddy to me.

This film was nominated as a Best International Film for 2023, though All Quiet on the Western Front won the category. It is the first Irish film ever nominated for the category and it was based on a novella (88 pages) called Foster by Claire Keegan. I immediately purchased it on Kindle and read it to compare it to the film. I must say that the movie producer followed the details almost to the letter.

In the short story, Cait is telling the story and it seems less sad. She sees life through a child’s wonder but there are again subtle references to the relationship with the father.  One major difference is when Cait almost drowns in the well like the son had drowned. In the movie, we see her wet, cold and frozen after having fallen in the well. However in the book, a small hand pulls her into the well, implying that it was that of the drowned boy in whose room she now sleeps. 

The author was pressed on many unclear points in the story, but she gave nothing away; however, certain parts of the book’s text were underlined or highlighted pointing back to the real source of her disconnect from others in the family. The majesty of the Irish countryside, the superb acting and poignant thoughts about universal problems make both the movie worth seeing and the novella worth reading.

Lynn M.
March 15, 2023

Everything Everywhere All at Once: A Movie Review

Everything, Everywhere All at Once is a movie like no other. It shows how our altered states of consciousness bring both chaos and the possible infiltration from other minds.  Evelyn, (Michelle Yeah) has a lot going on in her life all at the same time. Her laundry business is being audited by the IRS; her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) has served her with divorce papers; her fragile and demanding father, Gong Gong (James Hong) is visiting and needs constant care and her only daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) has just introduced her to her new girlfriend Becky (Tallie Medel)  Understandably, Evelyn is overwhelmed.

While at the IRS, she meets the IRS auditor Deidre (Jamie Lee Curtis) who is the typical Karen  who is dissatisfied with Evelyn’s messy papers and upset that Evelyn seems to be distracted. Actually, Evelyn is hearing other voices as some outside force attempts to take over her mind and body which sends her into parallel universes.

The fights begin and they are grisly, gruesome and not for the faint of heart. There are loads of confusion as events spiral out of control.  Both silence and nervous laughter could be heard in the audience as Deidre (Jamie Lee Curtis) also takes on altered states and becomes a highly combative killing machine. As someone asked, “Who doesn’t love Jamie Lee Curtis?”

The plot is action-packed and surreal as they battle the evil forces. Some of the characters are unknowingly at a crossroad as they come to grips with the fact that they cannot fix everything and be everything, everywhere all at once. Her daughter Joy, who turns out to be deeply possessed, summed it up by saying in essence, “Ultimately, nothing really matters.”

People have to go and see this movie for themselves and be the judge of this highly-charged piece. It is very different but it took a lot of acting skill by the entire cast to fulfill this writer’s vision. And that is perhaps what the Academy applauded!

Lynn M.
March 14, 2023

Our Women!

Women have broken into many fields,
To STEM, Lit and the Arts, they’ve added wheels.

For youth to ride into tomorrow’s day,
Following those guides, they advance and stay.

The living women of today can soar,
Build hierarchies through the use of chore.

Women of the past bravely stood the test,
They’ve inspired the youth and can now rest!

Lynn M.
March 8, 2023

March Madness-2023

It’s March! Spring and Lent are abound! 
We hear chirping birds as one sound. 

Quacking ducks talk to each other, 
Messaging with one another. 

Strange weather hitting coast to coast, 
Normally warm places can’t boast. 

Of wearing those shorts and flip flops, 
While putting on boots as temps drop. 

Yes, March madness is indeed here, 
No norms making some shed a tear. 

March rolls in – in a gusty way, 
No guarantees on March’s say.

Lynn M. 
March 1, 2023 

Gee, Thanks!

For those of us who have walked this earth for some time, we understand that crises arise and we will need someone to hold our hand.  The Beatles sang, “I want to hold your hand,” and Michael Jackson sang, “Don’t let go of my hand.” Either way, we will need a friend or even better, friends.  Sometimes, circumstances can simply be too much to go it alone.

I think of those that offered encouragement, a listening ear or even physical shelter as the storms of life raged and my soul was tossed to and fro.  As I sought nurturing care, I have found that people give what they are capable of giving. Some offer heartily, and some more skimpily. It depends on the largeness of their hearts and quite like the Grinch, the heart sizes vary.

But when we are on the receiving end, we humbly and thankfully accept what has been given and pack it onto our wounds.  Overtime, we can go on and though we may still be the walking wounded, we can act like a song from the 70’s which sang, “Float on.”

We are then able to walk from underneath others’ umbrellas whether they were huge and expansive or rather quite small. We emerge stronger as we walk out into the light and face what we need to face. From their willingness to share, we  feel more resilient, more sure and mostly grateful for the helping hand.
Lynn M.
February 22, 2023

Rhianna: My Take

The halftime show of the Super Bowl has everyone abuzz. Me? I enjoyed watching Rihanna’s high-flying act. From the sounds of those who were actually in the audience, they were wowed and gratified by her performance. And now, a few days later, the complaints and criticisms are rolling in like steam engines. I always say that if artists did not create, critics would have no work to criticize. 

Admittedly, I am quite a bit older than Rhianna and I do not know her songs nor have I seen her former stage acts; but honestly, I thoroughly enjoyed it. First, thankfully, she was not scantily clad, and we did not have to look at her body parts. She was well-covered and though now the baby bump has taken over social media, I perceive her as a brave, sassy, accomplished singer who sang, “We are going to own this town tonight.” And she did. 

Her Michael Jackson thump caused an uproar amongst some, but it is what it is. He did it all the time, but now suddenly, there is this outrage. She certainly, “gave them something to talk about,” as Bonnie Raitt so prolifically sang in one of her songs. I re-watched it on YouTube, and I enjoyed it, again. 

I watched one of her interviews that she gave prior to the performance. She was wondering how she could use the right songs from her extensive catalog and put them into a 13-minute act. She told the interviewer that she had 39 versions of the performance and was constantly tweaking it as she went along the way. 

Also, she was suspended 60 feet in the air and one of the producers said that she was afraid of heights. They had been practicing daily since November, so that she could get used to being that high up in the air. Amazingly, the ground crew had eight minutes to construct the stage and secure her on the moving platforms. Thank goodness, all went off without a hitch. 

Again, I did not know her music, but the lyrics to some of her songs such as, B… Better Have My Money, Only Girl in the World, Umbrella, Work and Diamonds are still playing in my head. Let us face it, art is art. To the haters, I would ask, “Where is your work?” And lastly, they are saying that she did not get paid. Well, I will close by saying that billionaire Rhianna did us a huge favor by simply being there. She is currently flooding the social media feeds and all other forms of media! 

Lynn M. 
February 16, 2023 

February 2023

The love month- February, 
Like clearing mist from the sea. 

One can see for miles ahead, 
Empowered, with no more lead, 

Weighing down the buoyant hope, 
Nor moving like a slowpoke. 

Imbued with those fresh, new ways, 
Rippling laughter on most days. 

Filled with love, hugs, text and talks, 
Advancing in higher walks! 

Lynn M.
February 4, 2023 

Encouraging Mini Me!

The other day, I listened to my Calm App and one of the meditation coaches suggested that we look at pictures of ourselves as a toddler, a young adult and a current one. He asked, “What would you say to your younger self? As he talked about self-care, he reminded us to be gentle, patient and kind to ourselves when things appear to be less than perfect and to take deep breaths as we calm ourselves during trying times.

I studied a picture of myself while seated on a couch with my sisters when I was three and living in Detroit. As I took a closer look, I looked petrified, stymied and my older sister had her arm around me for comfort. I wondered what was going on here. The youngest in families, my position, is often corrected and criticized every step of the way. I thought, “Hmm.” I would walk over to mini me, bend down and whisper in her ear, “It’s going to be okay.”

I then looked at a picture of myself when I was about eight years old. I was posing at a tea which I had attended with Mrs. Anderson and her niece. She was the hairdresser that lived across the street when we lived in Memphis. She had pressed by hair and had to carefully go around an injury from being hit in the head with a brick by the notorious Hunter boys. On another occasion, they had shot me in the eye with a slingshot as I walked down Florida Street. But to my astonishment, my picture exuded confidence. I was the only one who knew the full story behind that picture so I would give her a thumb up and would emphatically say to her, “Good job!”

I viewed a picture of me when I was sixteen and as a bridesmaid in one of my sister’s weddings. I exhibited a sweetness but also an immense naivety in thinking that if I was kind to others, they would also be kind to me. Wrong! On that November day in Chicago, I had no idea of what was in store. Crude and unwarranted rude behaviors were forthcoming like a steamroller. I would worry for her, say a prayer and I would give her a pat and say, “Careful, there. Careful.

I took the meditation coach’s advice a tad further and looked at mini me at the age of thirty-eight, living back in Memphis. By that time, harsh realities had set in, and her pained look is so apparent to me.  Disappointments in love, career and financial struggles had clouded her once highly optimistic outlook. I would walk over to her and take her poised hand and softly say, “Take a deep breath. Breathe out and release all of the toxicity.”

Then I looked at my latest selfie now displaying an evolved me who has become an educator, librarian, published writer and blogger. I smiled back at the latest snapshot and thought, “This woman has secrets. She knows things. She has weathered a few storms and has indeed seen fire and rain. But she is continually coming through quite nicely.” I would applaud her and raise my voice a little and say, “You’ve come a long way, baby!

Lynn M.
January 28, 2023