By Jacqueline Miller of Boogers Abroad
It’s been nine years since Michael Jackson passed away. He was a big deal in my house. Well, at least for 24 hours.
My son was 5. He announced: “I want to be a girl rockstar when I grow up.”
At the time, my preschooler loved performing on stage. He was a total ham and liked to mimic celebrities, often strumming a 20-year-old acoustic guitar he found in our basement. So rockstar, sure. That didn’t surprise anyone.
But the gender change, that was unexpected. So I asked, “Is there a reason you want to be a rockstar only if she’s female?”
“Yes,” he said, simply. “Only the girls are good dancers. And I want to be a good dancer, too.”
That was a blow to my parenting ego. Where did I go so wrong? Britney Spears was really big around that time, and Beyoncé had just released “Single Ladies.” But that’s still no excuse! Of course men can be good dancers.
I had to set the record straight. So I shot straight for the top.
“This guy is not only an amazing singer, but he’s also one of the best dancers of all time,” I explained to my son as I typed “Michael Jackson” into the YouTube search bar.
We started with “Thriller.” Only I forgot how long the intro is to that 14-minute short film. My son squirmed and lost interest, so I had to fast forward a bit, which was fine when I remembered how scary parts of that video are, especially for a kindergartener!
While kiddo was doubtful at first, he quickly became fascinated with the King of Pop. As he watched “Beat It” and then “Billie Jean,” his face transformed from uncertain to awestruck. By the time we got to “Smooth Criminal,” he was convinced. Clearly, I was successful at dispelling the myth that Y chromosomes stood in the way of hip hop honors or swing savvy.
Like anyone who’s tried to imitate Michael’s legendary moves, my child was soon slipping across our bamboo floors in his stockinged feet in a sort of clumsy Moonwalk.
He blasted “Thriller” and “Beat It” on repeat, dancing and singing along with his newfound idol. And I was basking in memories of my fourth-grade sleepovers while savoring the blessed diversion from the musical stylings of Sid the Science Kid and the Backyardigans.
The next day at school, my rockstar-in-training must have voiced his newfound love for MJ, because my 5-year-old returned home that afternoon close to tears. One of the little girls in his class had rebuked him with the stinging words: “Michael Jackson is dead and buried in the ground!”
Kindergarten can be rough. Poor kid discovers Michael one day and the next is mourning his loss. It’s a harsh world out there.
Later that night, I was washing the dinner dishes and noticed my little guy hunched over a floor vent. I thought he was just enjoying the warm air in his face like I did as a child. But then I overheard his whispered words into the black abyss of our HVAC system.
“Michael? Are you down there?”
About the Author
Jacqueline Miller is a freelance journalist who has appeared in Scary Mommy, Her View From Home and Sammiches & Psych Meds. She lives in the Midwest with her husband, two sons and a rescue mutt. Find her at www.boogersabroad.com and https://www.facebook.com/boogersabroad.