Thursday, July 2, 2009

Michael and me

I cried like a baby when I learned Michael Jackson was dead.

I was already teary-eyed when I heard the news. I had just posted this about my father-in-law's illness. I was missing my mother-in-law like crazy, lamenting a blow-up with Graham during which I lost my temper and terrified about how Rob was going to cope with the seemingly never-ending stress.

I had, in fact, taken to wondering when exactly being a grown-up started being so hard - so goddamned hard - when I heard that Peter Pan was dead.

"Have you seen my Childhood?
I'm searching for that wonder in my youth
Like pirates in adventurous dreams,
Of conquest and kings on the throne..."

I worshipped - worshipped! - Michael Jackson during my formative years. I was 13 when Thriller was released and he swiftly became the object of my every puberty-obsessed dream and desire.

I memorized every dance move in Thriller. I fell out with my best friend and cousin over a crush we shared on a boy who styled himself as a Michael Jackson look-alike. (He preferred her.) My first boyfriend in the ninth grade brought me home a Michael Jackson calender from a family vacation and grudgingly sat for hours while another girlfriend and I stylized his face, hair and clothing in an attempt to Michael Jackson-ize him.

I loved Michael Jackson and his music just as passionately when I grew older. I was in my early 20s and driving Canada cross-country when I made an hour-long detour in rural Saskatchewan on a wintry afternoon in order to find a bar where I could watch the North American premier for the Black or White video on the big screen.

I do not know whether Michael was guilty or innocent of the spurious child abuse charges that were ultimately his undoing: nobody does. I suspect he was innocent. I know that he was a victim of abuse and exploitation in his own childhood and later in his adult years when his money and fame seemed a barrier to treatment for what was clearly a heartbreaking descent into mental illness.

I never knew Michael Jackson, personally - obviously - but I feel I understand somewhat the lure that precipitated that descent. I understand - God, do I understand - the desire to keep the responsibilities and the pain of adulthood at bay. I understand the appeal of spending millions of dollars, of going to fantastical lengths, to try and recapture the halcyon days of childhood when laughter and happiness and the world itself was light and simple and gloriously uncomplicated.

I met Rob at the door on the day Michael Jackson died.

Graham had long since screamed himself to sleep and Rob had been out walking in the rain trying to clear his head and rid his stomach of the gnawing pain that plagues him on and off and had returned with a vengeance at the news of his father's illness.

"Michael Jackson is dead," I sobbed, as he took me in his arms. "I can't stop crying. It's like my whole childhood just, just died."

I was crying for the man who never had a childhood of his own, but whose life and music made mine a million times better.

I was crying for the man who never wanted to grow up, and for myself, the girl who couldn't wait to leave childhood behind.

Because he was right and I was wrong and now he was dead and I would give anything to go back to those days when perfecting the moonwalk on my parents' linoleum floor was clearly the simplest way to ensure future success and happiness.

"Have you seen my Childhood?
I'm searching for that wonder in my youth
Like fantastical stories to share
The dreams I would dare, watch me fly..."

Rest in peace Michael.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Jon said...

I had a acid washed jean jacket and the left side was covered with those little pins the size of a quarter portraying various images of MJ. Yeah, it's a total bummer.

Bird's Eye View Photography said...

I watched a special on TV last night about him and one of the people that claimed to be a dear friend of his said something that made a lot of sense.

The public never allowed Micheal lead a normal life. He was NEVER able to be normal... Everyone wanted a littel piece of him.

What a terrible life. But at the same time, he will live on forever in the hearts of eveyrone that knew and loved his work.

I feel just aweful for his kids.

Anonymous said...

This was beautiful!
- Jody

Mo said...

A fantastic post. Michael Jackson was certainly one of those beautifully unique people you knew you would never meet, but somehow knew intimately.

MarĂ­a said...

Great post.

Tania said...

Reading this was the first time that I've cried since hearing about his death.

Unknown said...

It is true..Michael made the entire world's life better but it was at the expense of his own.
I have had the very good fortune to work with the Costume Designers from both The "Thriller" video and the "Bad" video and both had many kind and complimentary things to say about him..aside from the obvious talent, also that he was sweet, kind,genuine, humble and an absolute pleasure to be around.... no unkind words at all.
I too suspect that Michael was innocent re: the molestation charges. He was a freak...a freak of nature with that super human talent and his attempts to capture a childhood he never had, the physical changes he made to all made him an easy target.
I wish him much deserved peace.

Anonymous said...

Glad you found your way to Firewedroots
- I like your site - you're the unsecure mother I was 30 years ago, but you're doing a far better job of being unsure.
Keep it up - your son will be all the better for it, once he grows up.

Secret Agent Mama said...

I've been really down about his death. I've seen so much negative about him, that seeing these positive posts make me feel a little more at peace regarding his death.

Christine said...

I remember the Michael Jackson craze. Though we are near the same age; we must have had very different childhoods. I cried when Ronald Reagan died.

Jennifer @ Fruit of My Hands said...

I think I'm just a bit too young, because I never caught on to the MJ craze or to his music. I do like to watch clips of him dancing.

For me it was when my grandparents sold their house a few years ago that I felt my childhood died. I had moved around as a kid, but my grandparents home was always there, always the same, always an adventure. I still feel like there's a hole, not being able to drive up to the canyon and visit that place.

Michelle said...

That was lovely.
I feel as though I mourned him a long time ago, but it was still weird to hear he had died. I do remember those days fondly and he was a huge part of them and for that I will always be thankful.

Janice @ Mom On The Run said...

Great post! MJ was never a big part of my childhood. I was never much into music hence my ove of NKOTB. Now if DDub ever passed then it would be a whole different story!

Carissa(GoodnCrazy) said...


I um... never liked micheal jackson.

even so.. your post here, really 'talks' to me.

I'm sorry about your FIL??

Leanne said...

Um, I didn't cry but I felt like a piece of my history went missing.

Here's hoping things are looking up your way.

Maureen said...

OH it was so hard not to start bawling like a baby during the memorial. Good thing my office has a locked door...

I am two years younger than MJ, so I grew up listening to the Jackson 5 and continuing to love him throughout his career.

His personal life, the struggles, I understood; but was never any of my business, so it never tarnished what I loved about him: his incredible talent.

I couldn't believe it when I heard the news either; and yes, a part of my childhood died along with him. RIP MJ.

Jaina said...

That was a beautiful tribute Kelly. I can't say I idolized him, but he truly was an icon, and his passing is huge. I think my mom said it best about his recent years, that he is just a lost soul. I hope that he has found peace at last.