Barbies and Jackets and Music and Memories

OK it was the post that almost wasn't but really has to be because I can't help it. I'm not going to talk about any of the crazy weirdness that has ever surrounded Michael Jackson or anything like that. That's not for here or today, or quite frankly, for me.

What I will talk about is a bright-eyed little girl I once knew. An eight-year-old with dirty blonde hair and pigtails. She would sit on her bed with her yellow eyelit bedspead in her bedroom with matching curtains, a Barbie Dream House with Barbie-sized ponies and her first true love: the record player.

Yes she had a record player and it played 33s and 45s.

This little girl loved music so much she would sit and listen to the entire Kasey Kasem Top 40 Countdown and write down every song that made the list. This took hours but she wouldn't miss a song. She would take snack and potty breaks only during commercials and make it back in time for the next song.

One day, her daddy brought her home her very first record.

Thriller. And yes, she was thrilled. It was a dream come true. (She doesn't count the Julio Iglesias record she got because she didn't like Julio Iglesias much at the time -- not that there is anything wrong with him, and plus her dad worked in retail and had gotten it free in a record promotion.)

Anyway, this little girl would dream of one day owning that red jacket with all the zippers.

She would play the record over and over again while holding the record jacket and staring at the picture of Michael Jackson in the centerfold, the one where he was kind of laying down petting a tiger. And she loved tigers too, by the way, and had done a cross stitch of one that was hanging in her room, so she and Michael had that in common too. Not the cross stitch. Just the tiger thing.

And MTV was just coming out but her parents didn't have cable yet (and even if she did, she suspects she wouldn't have been allowed to watch MTV yet anyway but she did at lots of her friends' houses). She was obsessed with Michael Jackson's videos. Beat It, Billy Jean, Thriller... She loved the video where all the squares lit up when Michael walked on them.

Her favorite Michael Jackson song was Human Nature. It made her dream of New York City. She had no idea that she'd get to live there one day.

She did all the dances. She recreated his moves. And she danced and squealed with all her friends over anything Michael. The way his curls would fall on his face. That bad-ass look he had when he looked at the camera in "Beat It." So dreamy.

The glove.

She moved around a lot as a kid, but she always had music. And Michael was there for her through all of it. Along with Madonna.

From then on, from that one album, music became part of her life. Her dreams. Her inspiration. Everything she did or became was because of music fueling her passion, her memories, her emotions, her motivation, her writing.

And throughout her life, she learned that everything was always easier or harder because of music. Music made it easier to drive somewhere, to run somewhere, to clean something, to soothe someone, to have fun, to dance more, to care less. But music also made it harder to move on, to forget, to stay strong, to hold in the tears, to lose something. Or someone.

But no matter what, music meant memories. Driving the car down the interstate to college for the first time, crying into a pillow after the devastation that is a teenage breakup, sitting in a driveway with a cassette player and her best friend, crossing the finish line at her first half-marathon, sitting in a car with her boyfriend after his father's funeral, middle school dances, her first concert, walking the streets of New York after September 11th (and the subsequent karaoke "therapy" that followed), sitting on a hillside alone after moving to Utah -- alone.

She was music. Music was her. And it all started with one person. One record. And one record player.

Oh, I remember that little girl like it was yesterday. I remember sitting cross-legged on my bed holding that record tight to my chest while listening to his songs over and over again. I remember the dreams I had, the fire I felt for life, the place I wanted to carve out in the world. It was all so big. But I didn't feel small. Because everything was possible.

That's who I think about when I think about Michael Jackson. I think about the millions of people he inspired, down to the little girl sitting on her bed with pigtails dreaming about what will become of her in her life. The starry eyes, the dreamers. People who were shaped by his music and his words.

It seems so unnatural that there is a world without Michael Jackson in it. And I can't even picture it, really. Even with the news and the memorials.

So I just wanted to say, Thank you. For the memories and for the dreams and the inspiration, for all of it. For shaping my love for music. I don't think there are many of us out there who don't have some sort of memory with a Michael Jackson song in it. Even if it is a 40-something-year-old guy in a bar re-creating the Thriller dance scene in the movie "13 Going on 30". Yep. That's one of my favorites.
Bookmark and Share


  1. i'm just barely too young to remember him from the 80s (my sister is 3 years older and remembers seeing the thriller video on a big screen tv while we were out shopping in Sears)

  2. Oh man. Karaoke therapy, indeed.

  3. OMG, Thriller was my first record, too! And too funny you should post about it because this weekend my brother tried to snatch it from me (it was still at my parents' house). Nice little argument we had there! :o)


Talk to me, Goose!

I love comments. Who doesn't love a good comment?