Love at the Library :Part III

Thanks for your patience! Last week was a busy week and I decided to take a brief break, but I’m back to finish the end of the beginning of our love story…

The Call

I was stopping by the library to meet Ade and we talked until the end of his shift. I was headed to perform in one of my all time favorite shows, Sarafina! with the St. Louis Black Rep and I told him I could drop him off on the way. He jumped into my boat old school Lincoln and we headed in the direction of his residence. We got so caught up in talking that he didn’t tell me which exit to take until we were past the exit ( insert sigh of annoyance) and so we had to take what felt like THE longest detour of my life . I dropped him off and skedaddled to the performance hall to make it just in time for my call time.  Shortly before places I got a call from a number I didn’t recognize. I checked my voicemail, it was him.  The first time he called! Hooray! Up until then we communicated through e-mail correspondence. I called him back quickly to tease him about the call and hurried to my place onstage…

Fast forward to a couple days later. We closed at one theatre to be mounted at another. I had been consistently working on my fitness so I took a walk after curtain. My thoughts were racing. I hadn’t talked to Ade since that first call. Should I call him back? Why hasn’t he called me back? I took the time to stop thinking about everything and just say a prayer. It was somewhere along the lines of ” God, you know I’m used to being in control and making things happen. I’m tired up being the pursuer. I want to be the pursued. It’s in your hands, I’m gonna fall back.” I left it at that and before I got into a good walking pace, the phone rang and it was him! Won’t he do it *cue shouting music*! He was calling to… ask me on a date…for breakfast. I had to consciously make an effort to contain myself from screaming yes.

I told him I was working out and I would call him back soon. I got off the phone and jumped, skipped and danced my way through Forest Park. I didn’t know it yet, but I was about to go on my last first date…

Have you ever had to have a little talk with Jesus and get out of your own way? Tell me about it in the comments below. How did it work out for you?

One more post in the Love in the Library Series, Don’t miss out! Catch Part 1 and Part 2!

Love at the Library: Part II

I am trying to recall the events as best as I can. While all of the details are factual, they may not be chronologically correct. Some names have been changed to protect the innocent

Sometime in August, I ran into AE again. Only this time he didn’t have hair! He was completely clean shaven. I mentioned it instantly and he shrugged it off as no big deal. We talked and he smiled and I smiled back. I asked him his name and the correct pronunciation. It’s Ah-Day-Whoa-Lay. I asked him if I could call him Ah-Day. He said he didn’t mind. At the end of the conversation, I gave him my card after I finished checking out.This also conveniently contained my phone number, but he didn’t call.

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he handsome Ade with a clean cut!

 

The next time I went to the library, he was there. I had a  bit of an attitude. I tried to play it off like I was unbothered that he had not called in the week since receiving my business card. I was  just there for my routine check out of books and it just so happened he was there ( I found out later that it wasn’t even one of his scheduled days to work). He smiled and made conversation asking how my day was and what I’d been up to lately. ( How dare he ask how I was doing when he had not called) I gave him short answers. Then out of the blue a patron ( let’s call him John) I recognized from the theatre came up to the desk and  greeted me with a bear hug.  Turns out Ade knew him, too. The thing about this patron is he was someone who was frequently looked over and brushed aside. He had a learning disability and frequently asked for “donations” and  some he encountered didn’t have the patience to deal with him. Ade smiled and asked John, ” How ya doing, my friend?”  I got a glimpse of his heart right there. My attitude faded away and the door was opened to more conversations and some of the best times of my life…

 

Love at the Library

April is the month of my dear husband’s birthday ( today is the actual day!) so I figured I’d share a bit of our love story with you. Today’s post is about how we met…

It was April of 2008 .I had recently returned from a trip to see the phenomenal Broadway show  , Cat on a Hot Tin Roof  directed by Debbie Allen. I grabbed some books from the STL public library and was ready to check out. Two gentlemen were behind the counter when I arrived. I thought one of them was cute. He had a low haircut, broad shoulders and a nice smile. The only thing I noticed about the other guy was that he had this kind of Albert Einstein weeping willow type hairstyle.

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I remember thinking to myself, “The one guy is really cute, but watch it be the other one that approaches me.” Like clockwork AE approached me with a broad smile and I chuckled to myself.

We chatted it up a bit and then the details become a little fuzzy for me. All I remember is I asked him a question to which he replied, ” It’s a long story.” Since he said it was a long story I figured it was a long story that he didn’t want to get into and so I left rather abruptly. When I got out the door, I thought how silly I was to leave so quickly. Maybe Einstein  had actually wanted to get into the long story. I wanted to ask him about it the next time I saw him, but I didn’t run into him again until August…

Ever judged a book by its cover and it turned out to be a world of adventure?

Gem of the Ocean

It will all come to stand in the light…everything and everybody got to stand in the light.-Aunt Ester

I went expecting to complete my personal journey with Wilson. By attending the concert reading of Gem of the Ocean, I would have completed the 10-play cycle by performing in or experiencing a performance of every decade  during my lifetime. Ironically, Gem of the Ocean is the beginning…

The presence Wilson writes for his characters fills the room, especially the women. He does not shortstop when it comes to Aunt Ester. The stage directions read, “Her presence has an immediate calming effect on Citizen.”  It’s not just on Citizen she has this effect, it is most everyone that enters.  This house is referenced numerous times as a sanctuary and a peaceful place.

I did not plan on attending church on a Tuesday night, but that is exactly what I did. Upon the deliverance of every utterance  of Aunt Ester’s words through the sanctified mouth of THE Greta Oglesby, I felt like I was in service just a few days too early for Easter Sunday.  I can not tell you how many times I ( and the people around me)  said an Umph, nodded my  head, or waved a hand. I was a willing participant in the call and response.

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Millie Langford, Greta Oglesby, and Candice Jeanine

If Aunt Ester is Mahalia’s Walk with Me, then Aunt Ester’s protege Black Mary is Bessie Griffin’s Ole Ship of Zion. Black Mary (played exquisitely by Tiffany L. Addison)  might not have as many years as Aunt Ester, but she’s got experience ; rumor says she had 17 husbands. When Citizen gives that age-old woman needs a man speech. Black Mary lets him have it without breaking a sweat.  Men have been taking and using for as long as she could remember .It’s not a tongue lashing, it’s simply the gospel truth.

This world was built and is sustained on the backs of strong women. The women of Gem supply not only strength, but sanctuary. By the end of the night, we all had traveled to the City of Bones and our souls were washed white as snow.

This post is part of the series #AugustWilsonCHI where I chronicle The August Wilson Celebration  as a part of the August Wilson Dream Team with a focus on the women in Wilson’s work. There are only a few more performances left before the celebration is over. There are events all over the city!  You do not want to miss out on being on this side of American history!

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Gem w/ dir. Mark Clayton Southers and Chuck Smith

Musings of a Mother-in-Law

It’s April which happens to be the birth month of great writers:  August Wilson, William Shakespeare and my husband! I plan on spending most of the month with posts to honor him, how we met, who he is and why I love him. Our first post, however, is written by my mommy ( I regressed to calling her mommy again once I got married)  about how she loves her son-in -law more than me.   -Candice Jeanine

By: Carmen Jackson

How do I love he (my son-in-law)? Let me count the ways!

My daughter is pretty good at reading me. Reading me and understanding me are not quite the same, but she’s usually in the ballpark. For example, somewhere in the course of being courted, engaged, and married to Ade (pronounced Ah Day), she expressed out loud to me that she believed I preferred my son-in- law to her. Talk about insulting a mother! Okay, not exactly insulting since I could kind of see why she thought this.

Though I’ve learned some things from her (generosity, cooking skills [backwards, right?], determination to name but a few), there remain concepts that are foreign to her generation… not simply because we have lived longer, but because we have lived longer AND have adult children for whom our love and concern never wanes. It is this mature love for her which made me understand  that her college selection paled in comparison to her husband selection. And have I told you about her husband selection? I love him!

My daughter is a new mother. In all that she provides for my grandson, she (hopefully) has not experienced the fear of not being there for him… literally. The older you get, the more likely you are to contemplate this very real possibility. Would it not be nice to know your child still  has someone in their lives who loves them unconditionally? It’s not just nice; it’s reassuring. It’s comforting. That love in your child’s life allows you to exhale (no more waiting)!

So, my daughter is right… kind of (forgive this hanging preposition)! The thing is, for each of my remaining children, I would hope when they make that selection that I feel the same way about their spouses, too!

I do love my son in law! I love the way he looks at my daughter. I love that they laugh wildly together! I love the way my grandson looks at his father! I love that he is a responsible husband.I love that my grandmother loved him. I love that my daughter has someone with whom to share her dreams and fears. I love that he is a compassionate person and that I’ve seen that compassion in action. I love, too, that Ade has been willing for Candice and her mother and her family always… to leave a little room for grace.

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Make Room for Women in the World of August Wilson

I am so full right now! I’ve attended Opening Night for Two Trains Running, A Concert Reading of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and a panel discussion of Women in August Wilson Panel. All of these are a part of the Goodman Theatre’s Celebration of the legendary playwright August Wilson.  

Sometimes I’ve had a bit of trouble listening, I can be a little too zealous with talking. Busy trying to prove something instead of trying to learn something. When I arrived at the Women in August Wilson panel, I made up in mind that my only job was to listen and I am so glad I did.

There was a gracious panel of women with various Wilson experience. Seret Scott, Roslyn Ruff, TaRon Patton,Regina Taylor, video panelist Phylicia Rashad and first lady Constanza Romero.There was so much greatness in that room that I’m surprised it did not explode. It was an  honor to simply have a seat at the table and boy was I fed.  The women spoke of the challenges, surprises and gifts from working with the text. Over and over the response was the words. Everything needed was written in the words.

Roslyn Ruff  (winner of both the Obie Award and Lucille Lortel  Award in 2007 and 2013 respectively) spoke of the catharsis she experienced while performing in  The Piano Lesson after experiencing a major loss in her life. She was able to live in that final scene and say thank you to her mom, uncle and aunt who had all passed in the past 9 months.

We laughed and we cried. It was like being at a slumber party with all of your great friends  and all of your favorite aunties. August was known to listen a great deal. His listening made it possible for him to write and for us to speak. I’m so glad he listened…

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Does anyone know of a woman (or women) who has completed the American Century Cycle in professional theatre or come close? Please comment below!IMG_1766 (1)

Grief Pi: Part III

3.21.14 and beyond

When she first left this earth, I was in shock and angry. It did not make sense to me. There were so many people and things I would have sacrificed just to have her back. How could someone so generous, so selfless and so faithful be taken while others that were not half the human she was, remain. My faith was shook. One of Granny’s greatest desires was to see the 5th generation. Can you imagine seeing the child of your son’s daughter’ daughter. It was my prayer many times. Let Granny live to see the 5th generation. Then as I got older, I amended my prayer request. I wanted her to have more time. Let her see the 5th generation walk.  It seems that my requests were not heard or simply met with a deafening NO. How could God say no to my request? This wasn’t a material request ,this was something meaningful and of substance. Every day she was living, the world was made a better place because of her love, her smile, and her joy.

A few days after the funeral, I found myself back home in Chicago sweeping the kitchen floor. I was wearing one of her many nightgowns just like I did when I would spend the night at her house in my younger days. I was trying to make some sense of it all. In the last month , she had told me of the dream she had of my little boy smiling in the hallway and walking. She always put on a smile, but I noticed her starting to get weaker. The reality that she would not live forever started to set it. I had prepared my mind that even if she got to see Lil AAA born and then passed the next day, it would have been better than her not seeing him at all, better than this. A small voice whispered to me, ” But you said you didn’t want her to suffer.” It was at that moment I remembered the other addition to my prayer. Yes, I wanted her to see the next generation, but I did not want her to do so if it meant that her quality of life was greatly compromised or that she was suffering a great deal.

There are still many days that I look at my son and mourn the fact that she didn’t get to hold her great-great grandson on this side of heaven. I think how absolutely tickled Granny would be to see him developing. I know she would have many nicknames for him and catchphrases that only she could get away with.  I continue to miss her dearly, but I find a bit of peace in knowing that at least she’s not suffering…

We tried to celebrate with Granny as often as possible.  I’m grateful that my hubby got to record some of those moments. I’m thankful to our good friend Rahim Branch for putting this piece together.

Leave a lil room for worth: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

“I don’t need  nobody wanna get something and leave me standing  in my door” -Dussie Mae

 

For 48 pages, we wait for her entrance.  She is not in the room, but oh is she in that room. Her reputation precedes her and when Ma Rainey ( played like a tornado by TaRon Patton) finally does walk on that stage,  you better move outta the way!

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hoto credit: Kamal A. Bolden

Ma Rainey is very much a boss, but her gender might lead others to call her that other b**** word. Unlike some of the other women in Wilson’s canon, Ma does not need to ask a man “how much woman” she is  or how much she’s worth. She knows it all too well.

As an artist,  I’ve undersold myself many times. I’ve questioned if I’m really worth what I’m charging. I believe I’m talented, but am I talented enough to demand that price. Will they laugh at me thinking I’m charging too much?  Then, after setting a price, I feel timid about asking for a payment that’s due to me when it hasn’t arrived on time. What will they think of me? Am I being too demanding? Should I just wait another month to see if they’ll remember to pay me what they said they would pay me for the services already provided? Typing this now, it seems  a bit crazy. Why would I be afraid of asking for something that I’m already owed. I’ve accepted “exposure” as a form of payment knowing  mamn well that exposure won’t keep their lights on nor mine.  Don’t even get me started on how men are demanding and receiving more for their services and asking for  it without  blinking an eye.   Acknowledging and accepting my worth and value is still a skill that I’m working to perfect, but I have stopped apologizing.

I lets them know it, though. Ma don’t stand for no … Wanna take my voice and trap it in them fancy boxes with all them buttons and dials . . . and then too cheap to buy me a Coca-Cola. And it don’t cost but a nickel a bottle. They don’t care nothing about me. All they want is my voice. Well, I done learned that, and they gonna treat me like I want to be treated”… Ma Rainey

My voice, talents and time are valuable and so are yours! The next time someone tries to get something for nothing just think WWMD? What Would Ma Do? She would get what’s due!

Have you ever sold yourself short and charged less than you were worth? How’d you finally stand up for yourself and get what you deserve?

This post is part of the series # AugustWilsonCHI where I chronicle The August Wilson Celebration  as a part of the August Wilson Dream Team.

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TCC, little AAA and I at the Ma Rainey concert reading!

 

Grief Pi: Part II

3.18.2014

Headed home on the bus, I had nothing but time to think. My mother and baby brother had come up the day after Friday to help soften the blow of Granny’s passing. Now, I was headed home for her funeral.  Last time I was there she was in great spirits. She had recently celebrated Mardi Gras (had her beads and all) with the residents of the nursing home SHE requested we put her in. This was the same home my Papa stayed in while living with Alzheimer’s.  Granny visited faithfully and celebrated her 60th wedding anniversary there with him.  Papa also took his last breath there. As I write now I start to realize just how intentional Granny’s choices were…

I returned to the home that I had spent the previous eight years of my life with the best roommate ever. Everything in that house was and still to this day is very much Granny. Her thrift store bargains, half a dozen book shelves filled to the brim,  and several artifacts from her time sometimes made the house feel more like a museum. How could all of her be there, but not her…

The road to plan her homegoing celebration was taxing. We had a great deal of help from family and some great friends, but it was the close family that had to plan the details, or so we thought. As we discussed the layout for the services, we realized that Granny had really planned her own funeral. She had been telling us for many years that she wanted to be buried in her 50th anniversary dress, didn’t want a lot of singing, and had in the past month given my cousin a couple options for the poem she wanted recited at her funeral… I wonder how long she was preparing for her exit…

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Always smiling no matter the occassion!

Two Trains Running

Leavealilroomforgrace is a blog about my quest to navigate my marriage, motherhood, and career with grace. By a stroke of Grace, I was selected to be one of the four bloggers for the August Wilson Celebration at the Goodman Theatre. I am so elated to chronicle this journey with you as I travel through the decades of the Black experience  by way of August’s ten-play cycle. We will provide personal reflections on the women of August Wilson.

Often times women are relegated to being the backbone of society. They are banished to the background to bear the weight of the burden. This holds true in August Wilson’s 1960’s based play, Two Trains Running.

Nambi E. Kelley’s Risa is the very spine of the piece.  Though her demeanor is stiff and protective at times, her movement is lucid. Her gait deserves its own soundtrack. Risa is no-nonsense and she literally takes matters into her own hands to make it clear that she is no one’s sexual object. She is tough enough to withstand the lewd passes, barked orders, and  frequent demands of the men she’s surrounded by daily and yet compassionate enough to handle the less fortunate with white glove service.  Many knock at the door to gain entry into Risa’s heart, but only one man succeeds…Hambone( the incomparable Ernest Perry, Jr.) The relationship between Hambone and Risa is the real love story. Hambone may be mentally handicapped, but he has more sense than most. Risa handles Hambone with humility and grace.   The very man who does not objectify her is the one who truly has her heart. Though there is the more “traditional” love line between Sterling ( played suavely by Chester Gregory), it is clear that Risa’s true love is Hambone.


Ernest Perry, Jr. as Hambone and Nambi E. Kelley as Risa photo credit: Liz Lauren

 

The thing about the backbone is that it’s complicated. It has so many components that contribute to the strength and flexibility of the body. It is vital for the whole unit. Well, sounds a bit like a woman to me, at least this woman.

Please look for more posts chronicling the celebration from these ladies:

Sydney Chatman 

Loy Webb

Danielle Pinnock