Friday, October 23, 2009

Tell Them That It's Human Nature

Lately I've noticed that moments of contentment come unexpectedly. With three kids, a sometimes demanding job, a house, a marriage, and other relationships I don't spend nearly enough time tending to, I often spend more time thinking of what didn't get done than what did. What I hadn't gotten to at work and should have. What quality time I'd half-assed with my kids because my mind was in a million places.

Michael Jackson's Thriller came out when I was in tenth grade. It defined my high school experience. My best friend Susan and I shared a locker in our conservative private Christian school, and were reprimanded for decorating the door in a montage of Jackson shots. I put a plastic "Thriller" jacket on layaway at Sears; not being particularly courageous in the fashion department, I ultimately only had the courage to wear it once or twice.

By this time I no longer shared a room with my sister, but the remnants of our time together remained. Years earlier we were allowed to choose how we wanted the room decorated, and at that moment Becky had been feeling purple. The result was purple carpet, purple walls, a purple ceiling, purple crushed velvet bedspreads on our twin beds. The room remained regal into my high school years, although I made throw pillows to tone down some of its royalty. So I spent hours in my purple room, playing Thriller over and over on my Emerson turntable. I loved every song on the album, but "Human Nature" had a special, eerie feel for me. It felt grown-up in the way the other songs didn't, and I heard it and thought of all the possibilities laying out before me. The road was wide open.

A few years later I was in college, and Michael Jackson was a joke. The Thriller jacket was loaned to a friend for a comedy bit in a college show and never returned. The album was long packed away. The ensuing years, with their tabloid drama and true or untrue allegations, were not kind to Michael. I gave Thriller and Off the Wall to Goodwill when Phil and I were downsizing for a move to Brooklyn.

When Michael died, though, I bought a copy of The Essential Michael Jackson, and the kids and I have been listening to it nonstop. Whenever a slow song comes on, the boys yell that they hate love songs, and I have to skip over, say, "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" so that we can get to "Leave Me Alone." They have no tolerance for "Human Nature," which is fine with me. The song has made me feel sad, seeing that the road is no longer wide open, and I prefer to listen to it alone, without their banter and squabbling. I've made life choices that have negated other life choices. My age now was inconceivably old to 16-year-old purpled-roomed Cindy. Had I let my mind wander to this age, I would have won an Oscar for best screenplay in between consulting with patients in my thriving New York psychology practice. I was not picturing the chaos that is my current life. The fact that the physical flaws I saw at 16 didn't disappear but only magnified as I grew older. I wouldn't have pictured myself schlepping to work in jeans and a hail-damaged Subaru.

Tonight Phil took the boys out to get their Halloween costumes, and Sylvia and I had a little girl time. She destroyed the living room while I loaded the iPod with some favorites I'm only able to listen to alone. When "Human Nature" came on, before I could get wistful, she came into the kitchen and started dancing and laughing. She appreciated the song. She didn't ask me to flip past the ballads. She has her whole life ahead of her, with all the promise and possibility that brings, and she was enjoying it.

Sylvia wasn't a planned-for or necessarily wanted baby. I was at the point that I was ready to move on from babies. When I learned I was pregnant, Phil and I spent a good deal of time hand-wringing before we settled into the inevitable. When I lost that baby, we were sad but also had some guilty relief. When I learned I was pregnant again a month after the miscarriage, I knew this baby wanted to be here. Watching her dance to "Human Nature," I listened to the song for the first time feeling the same excitement and potential I'd felt at 16. I hope she felt it, too.



Blogger jbratch said...

Cindy, this is a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing!

10:53 AM  
Blogger Teresa said...

What a sweet post.

MJ, too, was a big deal for me in high school. I loved Thriller. It and the lavish videos were so much a part of my high school days. I miss those sometimes.

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