How one woman's unexpected Michael Jackson mania helped heal her world.
Still, this wasn't long after the Springsteen incident, and I was hesitant to indulge my new interest in front of my husband. But the kids helped lead the way. My 12-year-old proudly mastered "Beat It" on Guitar Hero, and always cranked up the song in the car, windows down, sunroof open, singing loudly off-key and smiling. I sang, too. (Apologies to the neighbors.) My 16-year-old, needing material for a must-improve-my-handwriting-or-my-Latin-teacher-will-fail-me project, settled on Jackson lyrics, and we discussed HIStory and "Stranger in Moscow" ("Wow—'Armageddon of the brain'—cool line!").
First, I was riveted by the Jackson narrative—the pain, the pathos, the suggested improprieties, the percussive bursts of passion. Next, the music itself captured me, and from there, I wanted to know everything—about his creativity, songwriting, genius, anything. I didn't know what the hell was up with me. I had no other (dead or alive) celebrity obsessions, and here I was, going to see This Is It alone on a weekday morning. I was acting like a wacko.
My husband, my sons, didn't know what to make of my Michael mania. Mom's gone off the rails is what it probably looked like. I couldn't stop reading about Michael Jackson, talking about him, watching documentaries and interviews, listening. CDs and DVDs arrived. Books filled an entire shelf. I contributed an article about his music to a charity fund-raising book.
And all the while, Frank did not say one negative word.
He likely decided we were in a place where it was wiser not to question my behavior. He agreed, on a night I knew he'd rather watch Monday Night Football, to attend a Manhattan presentation where a scholarly critic discussed themes and iconography in Jackson's videos. Frank watched This Is It with me (again), and began alerting me to MJ TV coverage, bringing home magazines, and asking me to clarify Jackson song lyrics. My MJ mania ebbed at times, but mostly flowed, unbridled and baffling, even to me. Then, on Christmas day, I noticed the joyful anticipation on Frank's face, and I finally got it: I was mesmerized by Michael Jackson, at least in part, because he reminded me of my husband. I'll explain.
Years ago, I'd found a coloring book and crayons at Frank's house, which I'd assumed belonged to his nephew—only the stroking was too precise, the colors correct, the lines unbroached. It turned out that my hunky husband-to-be liked to color when stressed. And have the occasional water balloon fight. And watch cartoons.
Not long into parenthood, Frank vetoed my no-fairy-tales, no "lies" plan. The Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and Santa existed in our house only because of Frank's "childlike, not childish" wonder (as Jackson once described it). Those videos of Jackson with a trailing line of kids? At every family gathering, I called Frank the Pied Piper. Parenting Conflict? Make Sure Your Kid Wins