As far back as I can remember, I've loved Michael Jackson. I was only 5 years old when the album Thriller was released, in 1982. My sister, April, and her friend, Donna, would sit in the room that we shared and play that album over & over & over. I remember playing "house" with them (I always had to be the dog) or "office" (then, I was the obedient secretary) for hours. But no matter the game, the background music was almost always the Thriller album. I remember listening to Human Nature, PYT, Billie Jean & Beat It, memorizing all the lyrics even at that young age & singing into a hairbrush, just like my older sister & her friend. But, when the record would finally roll around to the song Thriller, I was absolutely terrified! That evil laugh at the end was the stuff of nightmares to my pre-school age self! I would run & hide in the other room, most of the time finding Mom or Dad to cower behind until I heard the yell from down the hall that it was safe to return. The game would then carry on with You Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' or The Girl Is Mine. I think they often would skip to Thriller just to get me out of the room (or game) when I was being particularly annoying. LOL
As I grew older, my love affair with MJ's music continued. All through the Bad phase: the zippered jackets (my cousin, Matt, actually had one & I was sooo incredibly jealous!), that cute, curly hair and those cool, black loafers. By this time, I was crafty enough to have found a way to climb onto the roof of our house. First: put in the Bad cassette and blast it! Next: step on the water faucet outside, pull myself up to the top of the small laundry room, slide under the highline wires (oh yes, I did!), and voila- the top of the house. This was my stage, and I was Michael Jackson. I moonwalked all over the top of that house... when my parents were at work, that is. I did my best dancing to The Way You Make Me Feel (still one of my favorite MJ songs to this day), Dirty Diana and Smooth Criminal. I was nine yrs old by now and I knew that I was going to be a dancer for Michael Jackson when I grew up. That remained my dream all throughout the rest of elementary school, junior high (the Dangerous album) and high school (the HIStory album). I would watch a video or performance on TV, record it, and study it. I mean, absolutely & wholeheartedly STUDY it. Every nuance, every flick of the wrist, pop of the chin, step of the foot.. I would study it until I could do it. I spent hours upon hours in my room staring at his image, his beats in my head, repeating his every move.
Fast forward to June 25, 2009. I will forever remember this day, not only because it's the day that MJ left us, but because it was Day 1 on mine & Jeff's 10 year anniversary trip to Key West, which we celebrated with friends. I was riding caravan on Highway 1 with 7 other people, just leaving Key Largo. My sister called to tell me the news. I was in total shock. Stunned. Speechless. I kept thinking, "Is this real? Is he really dead? How can that be?" Tears filled my eyes as I told Jeff. From the seat behind me, he leaned up and rubbed my shoulder, then quietly held my hand as I absorbed the news. He had never really been a fan, but he understood that I was. For the rest of the trip to our hotel, all those childhood memories filled my head, one after another. I mourned him, and I mourned that piece of my childhood, now forever gone.
I am no longer scared of a menacing laugh. I no longer climb onto rooftops or sing into hairbrushes. My dream of dancing with Michael never became a reality. But, I can still do all those dances. I still remember all the words. I will share his music, his genius & his legacy with my children, because I will always love Michael Jackson.
Rest In Peace, Michael.