Monday, November 02, 2009

This Is It

"Wow..." I heard quietly gasped from Matthew in the seat next to me. We were in the darkened theater this evening, and up on screen was a legend in motion. We had both looked forward to this evening with great anticipation. A week ago our dear buddy asked if I wanted to go see the Michael Jackson tribute film featuring footage from his rehearsals for the London tour which, as we all know, was cancelled after his untimely death. I asked if she would mind if Matthew came along, as he has developed a real love of MJ's music after performing dance moves to "Thriller" for the 4th grade PE showcase last year. Kenny and Josh don't quite have the MJ spirit, so they were not at all disappointed at not going. Now, if it were a Superhero movie, or for Kenny if it had been something like the film Mama Mia, then that would have been our special thing to do together. But tonight was about Matt and Mama and Michael.

All day today we had Michael's music on, Matthew was singing in his sweet off-key voice to all the classics, and it was kind of heartwarming for me to share something that had meant so much to me in my youth with my own child. For me, it is a love of books and a love of music of all kinds. Nothing high brow, mind you, but it has filled my life with joy to read and listen to a variety of material. Unfortunately, I don't have any cool skills to pass on or share with the kids...I don't sew, can't play a sport well, don't do Irish clogging...nothing like that. But there is something that feels cross-generational about having you child dig the music you loved as a kid. It connects you.

But there were multi-layered reasons for me wanting Matthew to see this movie, and I think it was a success on many levels. Putting aside all of the oddness of Michael's life, discounting the allegations that to this day I am not certain anyone really understands or knows to be true or untrue, there were lessons to be learned, and important ones at that.

As we embark on our new adventure of homeschooling, it has caused me to re-evaluate what education and learning are really all about for us. Is it about getting into a great college? Is it focused on scoring well on tests? Is it about getting a good job?

Or is it more about discovering your passion?

And what could speak more to passion about your life's work than watching an icon in action? Seeing Michael up there, whose entire body and voice was his musical instrument was nothing less than moving in so many ways. Music flowed in him and through him...he was made to make music. To see someone who at 50 years old still seemed to be unable to stand still through some of his hits which he must have heard and sung thousands upon thousands of times spoke to what it means to feel called to do something.

"Wow". Matthew was moved, he whispered to me once "I wish this was never going to be over!". Mesmerized by what he was seeing on screen, I too felt the same way. Sure, part of it was the music to which I knew every lyric and had since I was a child myself. But part of it was watching magic happening in a way few of us ever experience. Most of us do not have such incredible gifts to offer the world, or at least we never view what we have to offer as being of such value. Sad, isn't it? That we don't see being an auto detailer or a mommy as being as important a gift to offer the world when compared to being a singer or a dancer. Regardless of the passion we bring to our respective jobs, there will be no glamour nor fame. We fail to see those around us who were absolutely made to do whatever it is they are doing, as we often don't value the more mundane tasks of life as we value superstardom. Yes, our music flows through us too, it just plays a different tune.

"Wow". That is something I say almost every Wednesday night at choir practice. It is almost ridiculous how often I hear the first few measures of a piece of music carefully selected by our choir director and find myself in awe. Here she is, one of the single most gifted people I have ever met, and although she may not have MJ's moves, her passion for music is obvious from the first note she plays. There are no real accolades, there are no adoring fans (OK, maybe one here at our house!), but just as surely as music moves through Michael Jackson it moves through her as well, and in a much less obvious or talented way through me too.

Matthew and I spoke quietly in the car on the way home and I asked him what he took away from the film. He told me "A lot. First of all, it was really emotional to me because he was so good and we won't have any more of his music. That makes me want to cry.". I asked him what else and he said "Michael Jackson was so sad in real life, but he seemed really happy when he was performing. He must have loved what he did." and we talked about how work isn't really work if it is something you have a passion for. I told him I hoped that one day he found his passion and could find a way to make a living at it and he grinned back at me and said "Mommy, there aren't that many jobs for Lego builders!". He then added "I will remember something else too...they had to work really, really hard to put on that show. It looks pretty easy when you see them dancing on stage, but it isn't at all! They have to practice for hours and hours.".

I then asked him what he thought Daddy and I were good at, and he said "You are good at writing and typing, Daddy is good at work stuff and cooking for so many people at the airport. You are good at being a Mommy!". I then said "Do you know how I got good at typing? When I was young I had a job at a newspaper and had to retype 11,000 subscriber names, addresses and phone numbers into a new computer system and before I started I didn't even really know how to type! But I had a LOT of practice over a whole year doing that project. It sometimes takes sticking with something even when it is boring to get good at it." He asked if I though Dominick ever got bored at work washing cars and making sandwiches. I answered honestly "I think he certainly does, but his real passion is his family...: and Matthew finished for me " he does it for us because he loves us." He was quiet for a moment and he said one of the more insightful things he has ever said when he turned to look out the window and softly spoke "Too bad Michael Jackson didn't have a Mommy and Daddy like mine. He might have had a happier life then.".

Yes, I thought that very same thing often as I watched this incredible talent on screen tonight. Whether one agrees with all he did in life, whether you liked his music or dancing or personally thought it crude or annoying, there was no denying that he was the single best at what he did. And yet he lived a life of such profound loneliness and sorrow, spending money like a madman to fill the aching void that fame created. Always looking to seal up the hole in his heart that was caused by a Dad who used him and taunted him and a mother who did not protect him. Music was his mother and father.

And in this day and age of spoiled brat tantrum throwing vulgar word spewing supposed "superstars", what a pleasure it was to watch Michael be the consummate professional who treated all those around him with great respect, who worked as hard if not harder than those who performed with him, who gently demanded diligence and perfection and yet didn't belittle anyone to get it.

I am sure we will be singing more MJ as the week progresses, which is quite a change from the Brahms and Bach of last week. But it is a wonderful world where all of that can be thrown into our own version of a pot of Stone Soup and we can feed the masses with a beautiful blend of Musical Stew which contains a little of this and a little of that, all of which touches our soul in one way or another.

I am with Matthew on this one. Wow certainly describes what music does for us all!


Barbara said...


My youngest son dance studio is owned by a man who danced in thriller and one of the guest choreographers who does all their hiphop dances each year for his dance company was personally invited by Michael to audition for his This Is It tour. Kordell has had the greatest opportunities to learn the "Thriller" moves as well as some of the moves from the This Is It tour that were taught at the auditions. As a male dancer he has few good role models, but Michael is one despite what some may think as his work ethic and style is something no one can match. Kordell also saw the movie with his dance teacher Friday night and now has a better appreciation as to why they work so hard with both Scott (who was in Thriller and did some choreography for Michael) and with Gerard (who was invited to audition for This Is It).


Lori said...

Oh how I wanted to marry MJ when I was ten....

Been thinking about you lots and lots as I'm waiting, waiting, waiting for that phone call for you!! Not just because I'd like to be right with my date (but that would be cool!) but because the excitement over the girls just gets better and better each day and I can't wait for them to see all love and wonderful things waiting for them!

Kimberly said...

Cindy - when I read the title of your post I thought for sure it was going to be about the date for your departure to Kaz! I have to admit that I thought it was strange you would pick a picture of MJ to represent that, but my heart was pounding nonetheless :)
Imagine my surprise....
Still waiting anxiously to hear the good news about your trip

Bob; Carrie DeLille said...

What a fun evening. I think it always looks easy (regardless of the hard work) when someone is living their passion, when someone is following their call. Yes, we want our children happy and passionate about what they do, be it a missionary, a doctor or a waitress. May they all find their way!