He’s captivated by the drum beat and fire eaters in "Remember the Time" and enthralled by the dance moves in “Bad,” but his absolute favorite is the harmonization of "Earth Song." Ever since my six-year-old son heard the opening intro to “Bad,” he’s been hooked. He loves anything Michael Jackson, and comically, it’s almost become an unnatural obsession. He begs for me to play Michael Jackson songs on any car trip longer than five minutes and studies the dance moves of the music videos on YouTube.
One day as he watched the "Bad" video for the umpteenth time, he asks, “Mom, where is Michael Jackson? I want to see him.” It's a loaded question, I know, because as soon as I tell him the truth, more questions will follow. I tell the truth anyways; I'm a good mom.
“Carter, Michael Jackson died years before you were born. You can't see him, honey.”
Surprisingly, he shrugs me off, distracted by the man in the black leather jacket. His favorite part is about to begin, so I welcome the distraction.
Later in the week I hear footsteps in above my head in the second story of my home. Footsteps that come from the direction of Carter’s room. I quietly climb the stairs and peek inside.
There was Carter spinning around doing his best to replicate the "Bad" video dance sequence. I couldn't keep a straight face.
“Hey, Cart, what are you doing?”
He doesn't miss a beat as he answers, “Practicing.”
“For what?” I ask.
“I’m going to be one of the Michael Jackson dancers when I get big. I want to dance with Michael.”
He’s only six. But sadness and frustration washed over me. We already had this conversation a few days ago. I already told him that Michael was no longer here. It broke my heart to hear him say with such passion, “I want to dance with Michael.” Passion that almost nobody has at my age anymore. I didn't want to be the one to crush his dreams. I knew how badly he wanted this, silly as it may seem. I tell him the truth anyways, because as I stated before, I’m a good mom.
“Carter, you can't dance with Michael Jackson; he died a while ago, remember?”
He looks at me sadly. “Did someone kill Michael, mom? Where is he, what happened to him?”
Carter’s never experienced death before, and I feel almost guilty for introducing him to the greatest performer there ever was, but then again it would have been a crime for me not to.
I sigh, not quite knowing how to navigate the question of “did someone kill Michael?” So this time I lie.
“I’m not sure what happened to Michael; he’s just gone now.”
Like I said before, I’m a good mom.
He accepts the fact and finishes his dance, though with slightly less gusto.
December comes and the radio plays Jackson Five's “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.”
“Mom, is that Michael Jackson? Does he sing Christmas songs, too?”
He as a very finely tuned ear to the point where now he can pick out Michael even in songs he’s never heard before.
“Yes, Cart, he does sing Christmas songs. This one he’s singing with his brothers.
He’s pleased; two of his favorite things, Michael Jackson and Christmas, all rolled up into one Christmas carol. He asks me if I can find the song on YouTube so we can play it again.
“Of course I can,” I respond. After all, I am a good mom.