Apparently, I have LIMITS. Which is probably a surprise to those who know me and my parenting style. Whenever Sophie has asked questions, I answer with as much honesty as I can. She knows a quite a lot about quite a lot: sex, babies, homosexuality, religion, war, substance abuse. But I drew a line today. In my answers to her questions about Michael Jackson and his life, I stumbled into the observation that "Many people thought he was gay. Um . . . sort of." What did I mean by "sort of"? I didn't go there. For perhaps the first time. That's right: Me. A limit. Who knew?
I did try to explain to her what else Michael Jackson was: At one point perhaps the most famous man on earth. I was traveling abroad when Thriller was released, and people who could hardly speak English came up to me exclaiming "Michael Jackson! Thriller!!" Whatever, I thought at the time. His music was too pop for my taste. But in explaining to Sophie why he was so recognized, I remembered that he was the first who put together music, dance, and drama in the way we know it today. And when I played an old Jackson Five cd for her (the only good stuff in my mind), I was sad he was gone. We danced around the living room together, and I let go a tear. My reaction reminded me of my mom's when she heard Elvis had died. I remember sitting across the breakfast table from her next morning on a summer vacation when we heard the news and being amazed that she—hardly a hip-shaking rock and roller—cared so much. That was her king; for better or worse, this was ours.
Even thought I did not consider myself much of a fan, I was amazed at how much of his influence had infiltrated my life. All those high school dance class moves: Did they really come from him? I guess so; surely, he didn't lift them from us. And those Jackson Five songs? I knew all the words to most of them, strangely like the Pledge of Allegiance or the Lord's Prayer. Some things it's not necessary to memorize or believe: They're just there.
And it seems too much that Farrah Fawcett left the same day: Two icons from a single generation.
This is Sophie's favorite picture of her. I explained that once a long time ago I had the same hair, shoes, jeans, and unfortunately nothing else. And I could ride a skateboard like that (notice the old-school clay wheels!). I don't think she believed me, but I know the truth.
This afternoon at work I noticed myself pulling my hair out of its usual ponytail and reaching up from time to time to give it a little fluff. I guess she's there too.
Rest in peace, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, and an era when we were young and stars were stars.