Believing in Magic: Cookie Johnson
Can love sustain so many disappointments, hardships, and discords causing one party in a relationship to become vulnerable to the whims, wiles, ambitions and desires of the other person involved? Can someone withstand more than their share of unhappiness often wondering if you were sacrificing you own dreams, hopes and desires in order to conform to the lifestyle that someone else created for themselves and you are trying to fit in or acclimate into? How far would you go to lose your own identity at times, put someone’s needs before your own and have them forestall your forever happily ever after due to fear, commitment issues and uncertainty? Cookie Johnson presents a story that took time, courage, and fortitude to tell about her relationship with Earvin Magic Johnson in their up and down rocky courtship that took them twelve years in order to finally say those magic words I DO!
How much can one person take before saying I GIVE UP NO MORE? Cookie Johnson boldly, beautifully and magically draws us into the story from page one keeping the reader riveted to her every word and printed page until we all learn whether she and Magic will finally say I DO . The prologue begins with the knowledge that they were just married forty-five days when instead of heading to play a game Earvin informed Cookie he was on the way home to tell her something in person but not on the phone. Needless to say with their rocky past she thought she was going to hear the D word or divorce as he might after all this short time period have another bout of cold feet. When you have faith restored within yourself and dry the tears of disappointment then miracles and understanding might happen. How do you deal with a man who says you are the only one for him and when the crucial time comes he backs out and cannot take that final step? As the years wore on Cookie found herself getting an amazing job and wanting to be independent and take care of herself as she did growing up. Paying her own college fees and tuition, helping out at home and being loyal to her family, Cookie managed to soar but her thoughts of a future came into play whenever she stopped, thought about him or that phone call hearing his voice would turn things around almost every time no matter what their standing was at the moment. It took a great deal of courage, honesty and inward thinking to decide each time what the final result or outcome would be.
After you read their early history, her friendships with the wives of many teammates, the support of her family you understand why she never gave up on her dream and why the news she was about to receive as a newlywed would rock her world and that of Magic too.
How do you deal with something most did not fully understand in 1991 and even today?
The HIV virus most thought was a death sentence yet sometimes and in this case the sentence was commuted and the disease put at bay as Magic Johnson although devastated and realizing his career in basketball was over, took a courageous step with Cookie at his side and told the world he was HIV positive. Dealing with media and press fallout, fan fallout and teammates unsure no one realized at the time but eventually finally would that HIV is not a disease that defines only gay men and women but can be transmitted in other ways too. With her understanding of God, her Bible study classes that she started taking after their first breakup, Cookie used her faith of God and his words to remain faithful to Magic and at his side every step of the way.
Let’s take it back to the beginning where we meet Cookie who refused to give up when her mother had a limited amount of money coming in and she dated a boy named Brent who wanted to stifle her dream of a college education. Attending Michigan State University was her goal and in the late 1970’s she not only attended the college but Earvin Magic Johnson realized for the first time that his true love might be right in front of his face. Wanting a career and degree in Fashion Design and graduating in 1981 with that degree was the start of what she hoped would be a lucrative career in the fashion industry. But, even though she and Magic were an item you might say, his eye for other women never stopped and although he was blind at times to her feelings and upsets it did not stop him from disappearing, taking what some would call an unprecedented time out from their relationship yet knowing the moment she met another person or anyone was interested in her not hesitating to tell her to tell the other guy to take a hike so to speak. How do you understand someone who had mixed emotions, wanted you in this life and at times did not? What followed when they finally married and came to terms with his diagnosis was Magic starting the Magic Johnson Foundation taking the AZT treatments as discussed in this memoir. Imagine her relief and his too when the blood test for her and her unborn son came back negative.
Magic needed the assurance that he was handsome, talented and loved the attention of women and although some have declared his relationship with Cookie and treatment as emotional abuse at times others might differ and say that he was conflicted, frightened, torn and had problems defining what he wanted and who he was and needed the affirmation of not only other women but the players on his team and his fans. Knowing Cookie was his in the back of his mind he might have tabled their relationship in public but I don’t think in reality he ever wanted or thought he would not want her for his life partner. Some say he did not care for her feelings while others might say he was unsure or afraid he would be trapped by a controlling wife and wanted no part of a well oriented and planned out life. Some would say that she should have called it quits when he kept vacillating about marrying her or calling it quits. Heartbreak, digging down deep to define herself and hoping that he would show up at the church when it really counted, sometimes faith just might win out over fear.
Dealing with HIV was difficult and devastating for them both but taking her marriage vows, discounting his wealth and fame Cookie only wanted the man and the rest did not matter. Some would say he created a world for them by orchestrating their movement and lives like an experienced conduct of an orchestra.
The author shares more of her past as we learn more about her family, the fear she had about having EJ her first son and the demands made on her by her doctor to undergo certain tests without the support of Magic who was commentating on games at the time. Being voted MVP was a great honor and allowed to play in 1992 and rejoining the league in 1996 caused him great conflicts as some on both sides welcomed him while others did not. When you do not fully understand something you often misjudge the end result and most even now do not realize that they will not get Aids or the Virus by handshaking or playing basketball. The prejudices shared by the author growing up in all white neighborhoods and her sister’s loyalty then and when she was about to give birth renewed her faith in family loyalty and love. With his parents and hers on her side how could she lose?
. At that time, the rise of deaths of AIDS complications from HIV wasn’t easy to talk about. It was consider to be a taboo especially in the Black Community and the Church Community. We all experienced loss from loved ones, friends or somebody that we knew died from this illness. Cookie mentioned about the fact how she was burdened with the fact that married five weeks and pregnant. When Magic originally confesses to her he have bad news. She was in fear about the bad news that he wanted to leave her. Cookie did share what she was feeling about her feelings and turmoil after Magic undoubtedly humiliate her in front of their friends and then moved out after 10 years of marriage. However at that moment after two weeks he changes his mind and wants to move back. After reading Cookie’s story, I was left with the reaction that after counseling they are momentarily rock solid. As it may be for the reason that Cookie is finally standing up for herself as a woman and place confidence in that she can survive whether or not he is in the picture?
Twenty –five years is a long time as the struggles have been many and some would say their marriage is like an earthquake with many aftershocks hoping that they would finally dissipate and disappear. Cookie stood up to Magic when it really counted and when he left after 10 years of marriage she still never gave up nor did she change his image when it came to her children. From the age of six growing up in Huntsville, Alabama and then Detroit, Michigan, she was smart, determined and persistent in knowing what she wanted and the roads she wanted to take to get there. Creating her own line of jeans and I might ad they are magnificent and tops which this reviewer just might purchase on line, she is an inspiration to many as this story is about understanding, hope, love, but most of all acceptance. Cookie learned that she could not change Magic and he finally realized the same about her and they both work together off of their own strengths and weaknesses finding ways to give each other the room they need to an even longer marriage. From the NBA, to the All Star game to named MVP and then the Summer Olympics on the Dream Team not only did the coaches have faith in Magic he did too. Businesswoman, businessman, father, son, wife and mother this family will succeed because not only does Magic believe in himself but COOKIE BELIEVES IN MAGIC TOO WHAT ABOUT YOU? Told from the heart, you can feel the frustrations, the anger, the fear and see the tears as on woman would never give up telling the story in her own words from the heart this is one memoir that has made an impact on this reviewer and those that are dealing with someone with HIV or Aids this book and what Magic and Cookie have created provides an outstanding resource.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ Magazine