Angels Among Me…

Jack & Donatta and Jack and Bill Circa - Both in the 1980's

Jack & Donatta and Jack and Bill
Circa – Both in the 1980’s

Even though I didn’t have too many immediate role models while growing up, my life at that time did consist of several very special and important people. I have known my best friend, Donatta, for almost forty years; over half my life. Donatta and I were school mates and I met her for the first time in 1974 while attending the brand new school, Joan F. Arai, which was located down on Wilson Avenue. This school was modern day, with its Olympic size swimming pool and teachings that provided homemaking and manual arts training for all students, along with a regular academic curriculum. I had a lot of fun attending Arai and met some great lifelong friends. A couple years later, in 1977, we were the first eighth grade graduating class of the school. We even made the news reflecting this. Donatta and I became immediate friends. Her personality and friendship was genuine, infectious and I admired her confidence. She had beautiful long flowing hair that had every shade of blond imaginable strung within it. Today, women would pay top dollar to have such great highlights. I would stand behind her in line at school and play with her hair, running my fingers through it like one does a harp, strumming it from one end to the other, watching it fall perfectly back into place, time and time again. Donatta had a sultry look to her, a natural beauty, and a smile that made you instantly feel comfortable. I thought it was effortless for her to be so beautiful. She had long manicured nails, polished. Her makeup was flawless, never overpowering, and just enough to bring out her natural beauty, bringing out her best qualities, such as those high cheekbones she was graced with. Not only was Donatta beautiful on the outside, but she was even more beautiful from within.

Growing up with Donatta since we were young children, she has been there for me when my own mother wasn’t. God knew exactly what he was doing when he sent her to be in my life. Donatta and I formed a close bond and relationship that to this day has never been broken. She was there for me and my family during difficult times and, almost forty years later, she’s still a significant part of my life. Words are limitless when it comes time to share my thoughts and feelings about Donatta. She is truly a kindred spirit and she was brought into my life for a reason, when I needed someone the most; someone to trust, a person to confide in. Although the same age, and only fourteen days apart in birthdays, Donatta always took me under her wing, making sure that I had a friend, but most importantly, that I was safe and felt loved. Donatta is the Godmother to my daughter, Arlaraye, and I am the Godmother to her daughter, Audrey. We may not be connected by blood, but just like her father, Dedac, we are surely connected by the strength of our love and the spirit of God. Sharing the utmost deepest respect for one other, Donatta is more than a sister, she is my soul mate and I love her with all my heart.

I also share a fond relationship with Donatta’s parents. We respectively call them Nana and Dedac. Dedac recently went home to be with God, but I know he is looking over us, protecting us and smiling every step of the way. Donatta’s sister, Gordana, is also a part of our life and would do anything in the world for you. These wonderful Croatians all are a significant part of my everyday family and consider them nothing short of being the loves of my life. While growing up and spending time with them, they always considered me a part of their family. To this day, they welcome me and my children with open arms, a kiss and a special greeting, “sunce” meaning sunshine. There were times where Nana and Dedac helped pay my rent and even helped me buy airline tickets to travel with them on a family trip to Mexico. We have spent many Christmas’ together, birthday parties, and other special events throughout the years. Every get together began with a question from Dedac, “You are fine, how am I?” a tradition that has yet to be unbroken until recently. Surely, Frank will carry on this fond ritual. Nana and Dedac are my children’s Croatian grandparents, Gordana is their Teta and Donatta is their Noo-Noo. They are and always will be a part of my life. Volim te!

Donatta and her family lived in Chicago, just off of Lawrence and Western. On the rare occasion when my mother would allow me, I would spend the night with Donatta and her family. We would have the best time giggling the night away. Donatta would always tell me not to laugh so loud so as to not wake up her sister who was sleeping just in the next bedroom across the hallway, but it never worked, as we both would have another spurt of laughter under the goose feather comforter. We did this for hours until we finally fell asleep. Oh, the comfort of that feather comforter. I had never felt anything so soft and fluffy and I remembered asking Donatta what kind of blanket it was. I remember cuddling the feather blanket deep underneath my chin, thinking to myself that I felt so safe and imagined that this was what a fluffy cloud must feel like. I slept so well that night. I felt free. I felt safe. I always felt such safety and comfort being with Donatta and her family. I knew that nobody was ever going to hurt me there. A favorite memory while staying with Donatta were the wonderful showers that I was able to take. At my home, we didn’t have a shower, only a bathtub. We also never had the luxury of so many beauty soaps like Donatta had. My mother would only buy one shampoo, which was called, Prell. The bath soap that we used was Lava, which is what Melvin requested to use because his hands would get so dirty. If one wasn’t drying out your hair, the other was stripping the shine off of your skin. While stepping into the shower in Donatta’s bathroom, I remember seeing every shampoo, conditioner and body wash imaginable. They had all kinds of body washes and shampoos, only for me try each and every one of them. I felt as if I stepped into a beauty salon, with the whole salon at my fingertips, using whatever I wanted! Whenever I was in Donatta’s home, I always felt like I was a part of their family and, to this day, I still do. When stepping into their home an immediate comfort sets in and I find myself looking around at every door way, every room, every picture frame that hangs on the wall, reminiscing back in time to the days when my presence was there as a young girl.

To Share with a Friend

My best friend and I, away we did fly, to swim in the sea of blue green,
To taste the salt and touch the sands was a feeling beyond supreme.

Sun setting low with its shade of fire, behind the islands afar,
We sat dreaming up at the sky, watching the Northern Star.

Late night swims in the nearby pool, sharing our feelings of hide,
To confide in my best friend was a feeling of trust inside.

To experience a land of such beauty and serene, in the late month of September,
To share this happiness with my best friend, will always be something I remember.

Jackie (Lambert) Morin
Poem written for Donatta after we came back from Mexico with her family.

“What you need to know about the past is that no matter what has happened, it has all worked together to bring you to this very moment. And this is the moment you can choose to make everything new. Right now.” ~Author Unknown

I blossomed early within the dating scene and met a boy that I simply adored at the age of twelve. I met Bill Dooley in 1974, where he, too, attended Joan F. Arai. Bill was very tall, like his father, and had the biggest brown eyes. His smile reached from one cheek to the other and his lips were full and never disappointing. He had long dark curly hair that would always curl up just enough where it would wrap around the frame of his glasses. He wore football jerseys and enjoyed eating Twinkies for lunch.

Bill was the kid who was popular within his class, if not the whole entire school and all the girls liked and wanted to date him. For a year, Bill and I would tease each other silly, finally realizing that we truly did like each other. Finally, Bill asked me to go steady with him. I felt like I was the luckiest seventh grader around. Me, dating Bill Dooley! It seemed impossible. Of course, being as young as I was at the time, and being brought up in a very strict home, I wasn’t allowed to date. Therefore, Bill and I would sneak around to see one another and we did this for many, many years thereafter and kept our relationship a secret from my mother and Melvin. Of course, our friends knew that we were dating each other, along with Bill’s parents. Basically everyone knew except my side of the family. Without a doubt, they wouldn’t have approved and I would have been severely punished if they had. When I said I was going to visit my friend Janet on Saturday’s, I was actually taking two CTA buses to Bill’s home down at 3950 Lake Shore Drive. Every night, Bill would call me on the telephone and I would hurry up and answer so that my mother or Melvin didn’t know I was talking with a boy. I always said it was either Donatta or my friend, Janet, calling. I remember once performing a silly stunt, where I told mom that I would do jumping jacks until “Janet’ called and rung the phone. Of course, this allowed me to stand very close to the phone, where nobody else could answer it. After a while, I was running out of excuses as to why I would always stand so close to the phone every night. Well, finally, after fifty some jumping jacks later, the phone finally rang, allowing me to quickly pick it up. Surely, they wouldn’t have approved of me talking with Bill on a nightly basis or any time at all for that matter.

Knowing that Bill was an avid Bob Dylan fan I wanted to impress him so much and let him know that I liked Dylan, too, even though I knew nothing about Dylan, his songs or his history in music at the time. But, I really wanted Bill to like me and I wanted him to think that I had taste when it came to music, too. I would play my Bob Dylan 45 singles on my turn table in my bedroom while we talked on the phone, sitting very close to the speakers so that Bill could hear the music in the background… “The Times They Are a-Changin’, Stuck Inside a Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again and Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35.” The irony is that Dylan’s music truly influenced me and I enjoy his work and the meaning of his songs very much. My favorite Dylan song has always been “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” I always wondered if Bill knew that this was all a strategy to get closer to him. Did he really think that I was a cool chick for listening to Dylan music?

Bill’s parents were wonderful, accepting me into their home the moment they met me. They were both very easy going parents, open, free and truly accepting me as a part of their family and life. Family parties, “Skettie” dinners or weddings, I was a part of them all. They knew of my upbringing and home life, as I shared this side of my life with Bill. They knew the structure in which I lived. Perhaps, this is why they mothered me so. Spending time with Bill and his family, I was able to see how a real family should spend time with one another; sitting down to eat dinner together, watching television together and even expressing how much they loved one another, always hearing the words I love you. I even heard these words from Bill’s parents myself. I will always be thankful that they let me be a part of their lives for so many years.

These two extraordinary friends, Donatta and Bill, kept me out of my neighborhood as much as they could during my teenage years, as they both realized how I was being raised and the unhealthy environment in which I lived. They, along with their wonderful families, were my saving grace and, to this day, I credit their existence in my life for keeping me out of that neighborhood and out of trouble. I honestly feel in my heart that if I had hung out with the wrong crowd, especially with what the neighborhood was offering, I would have gotten pregnant and ended up on welfare myself, which appeared to be an epidemic on the block as I was growing up. With no love or structure from my home life, Donatta and Bill made this part of my life whole and complete, never leaving me asking for more. For this, I will forever be grateful to them, as well as their families.


Lying here thinking of you,
Waiting patiently to be in your arms,
Watching the clock as it slowly passes away.

I remember back into the past,
To the days when our love was young,
We kissed, we hugged, we held hands,
As we walked together under the star lit sky.

Feeling a warm glowing sensation inside me,
I bring myself back to reality, satisfied to know
That nothing has changed between us.

Jackie (Lambert) Morin

As relationships often do, Bill and I went our separate ways after college, so that we could both grow in areas that we wouldn’t have been allowed to do otherwise if we had stayed together. That was a bittersweet time for me, but looking back, I do believe now that it was all meant to be. As I have always said, “Everything happens in life for a reason.” It may not make us stronger at the time, but over time it will. It was over twenty years later that I, once again, heard from Bill. We have since reunited and renewed friendships, caught up on each other’s lives, the happy and the sad, as well as reminiscing about the days of old but, most importantly, we talked about forgiveness.

God places certain people into our life’s paths for a reason. Donatta and Bill were my own guardian angles. They were meant to be in my path, meant to be a part of my life, to be a significant and positive interception toward the intended life that was projected for me. Having no one else to trust or depend on, I would have relied on the resources that were around me, the ones that were negative and destructive; the ones that would have surely taken me down the wrong path. For this, I thank you…

“God not only sends special angels into our lives, but sometimes He even sends themback again if we forget to take notes the first time!” ~ Eileen Elias Freeman


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