© Red and Yellow Socks
If we are truly honest with ourselves, I believe that most of us, if not all, sometimes think back to our childhoods and, recalling fun times with our friends, wish we could go back, at least for a while, to re-experience those carefree feelings. We might recall summer vacations at the beach, or simply jumping rope or playing hop-scotch in our driveway. On some mornings when we got up, we were so anxious to get outside, we grabbed a red sock and a yellow sock, or a blue one and green one, quickly put them on and ran outside, not caring at all that our socks didn’t match. What was most important was: simply being a kid.
During most of Michael’s adult life, his critics often questioned his child-like behavior and his love of “hanging around” with kids. Even some of his most zealous fans had to wonder what compelled him to choose to have more children than adults as friends with which to spend his precious leisure time. The following excerpts from an article Michael wrote in 2000 for BeliefNet.com should explain why he felt so empowered by children and why he felt it was so important to provide them with as much normalcy and joy as possible.
“When people see the television appearances I made when I was a little boy–8 or 9 years old and just starting off my lifelong music career–they see a little boy with a big smile. They assume that this little boy is smiling because he is joyous, that he is singing his heart out because he is happy, and that he is dancing with an energy that never quits because he is carefree.
But while singing and dancing were, and undoubtedly remain, some of my greatest joys, at that time what I wanted more than anything else were the two things that make childhood the most wondrous years of life, namely, playtime and a feeling of freedom. The public at large has yet to really understand the pressures of childhood celebrity, which, while exciting, always exacts a very heavy price.”
Just imagine—try to put yourself in his shoes. You are a young boy who wants the normal pleasure of life but are not allowed to have them because of your mother’s religious beliefs and your father’s strict discipline to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! And you are perhaps the only kid in your school or your neighborhood like you. Nothing could be more isolating and sad than not being able to make friends and ride bikes with them up and down your street. Michael had much to say about this:
“More than anything, I wished to be a normal little boy. I wanted to build tree houses and go to roller-skating parties. But very early on, this became impossible. I had to accept that my childhood would be different than most others. But that’s what always made me wonder what an ordinary childhood would be like.
There was one day a week, however, that I was able to escape the stages of Hollywood and the crowds of the concert hall. That day was the Sabbath. In all religions, the Sabbath is a day that allows and requires the faithful to step away from the everyday and focus on the exceptional—every day life tasks of cooking dinner, grocery shopping, and mowing the lawn are forbidden so that humanity may make the ordinary extraordinary and the natural miraculous.
But what I wanted more than anything was to be ordinary. So, in my world, the Sabbath was the day I was able to step away from my unique life and glimpse the everyday.”
Until Michael was 33 years old, he managed to have one day a week to see what “normal” life was like. His heart must have ached when he witnessed it. His childhood could never be recovered. He could not turn back the clock and re-live it the way he wanted.
“Up to 1991, the time of my Dangerous tour, I would don my disguise of fat suit, wig, beard, and glasses and head off to live in the land of everyday America, visiting shopping plazas and tract homes in the suburbs. I loved to set foot in all those houses and catch sight of the shag rugs and La-Z-Boy armchairs with kids playing Monopoly and grandmas baby-sitting and all those wonderfully ordinary and, to me, magical scenes of life. Many, I know, would argue that these things seem like no big deal. But to me they were positively fascinating.”
One thing Michael must have realized during these Sabbath outings was that children were indeed special. Somehow they saw in him a heart as big as the world and an understanding that they did not get from the other adults in their lives. For him, this may have been a realization that children were much more accepting and forgiving than adults. If I had been in his shoes, I believe I would have decided the same thing and I, too would have spent more time with them than with narrow-minded, judgmental adults. When Michael interacted with kids, it must have felt liberating.
“The funny thing is, no adults ever suspected who this strange bearded man was. But the children, with their extra intuition, knew right away. Like the Pied Piper of Hamlin, I would find myself trailed by eight or nine children by my second round of the shopping mall. They would follow and whisper and giggle, but they wouldn’t reveal my secret to their parents. They were my little aides. Hey, maybe you bought a magazine from me. Now you’re wondering, right?”
These limited experiences with children must have been magical for Michael. He saw such light, innocence, and freedom in their bright eyes that he wanted to be around that as much as he could. It was the next best thing to having experienced it for himself.
Although Michael eventually left the Jehovah’s Witnesses, he held on to his belief in God and he held on to some wonderful memories of his time with them.
“When circumstances made it increasingly complex for me to attend, I was comforted by the belief that God exists in my heart, and in music and in beauty, not only in a building. But I still miss the sense of community that I felt there–I miss the friends and the people who treated me like I was simply one of them. Simply human. Sharing a day with God.”
For most of us, our childhoods are the most precious time of our lives. We might have experienced traumas of varying degrees, losses, and disappointments, but whatever it was, it helped shape who we became as adults. Knowing how important childhood is, it is my hope that most of us see in the children in our world the way Michael saw the children in his world.
“When I became a father, my whole sense of God and the Sabbath was redefined. When I look into the eyes of my son, Prince, and daughter, Paris, I see miracles and I see beauty. Every single day becomes the Sabbath. Having children allows me to enter this magical and holy world every moment of every day. I see God through my children. I speak to God through my children. I am humbled for the blessings He has given me.
There have been times in my life when I, like everyone, has had to wonder about God’s existence. When Prince smiles, when Paris giggles, I have no doubts. Children are God’s gift to us. No–they are more than that–they are the very form of God’s energy and creativity and love. He is to be found in their innocence, experienced in their playfulness.
My most precious days as a child were those Sundays when I was able to be free. That is what the Sabbath has always been for me. A day of freedom. Now I find this freedom and magic every day in my role as a father. The amazing thing is, we all have the ability to make every day the precious day that is the Sabbath. And we do this by rededicating ourselves to the wonders of childhood. We do this by giving over our entire heart and mind to the little people we call son and daughter. The time we spend with them is the Sabbath. The place we spend it is called Paradise.”
Finally, Michael was able to live his childhood vicariously through his own children, and they were blessed to have a father who did as much as he could to provide a normal childhood for them. As parents, what better example could we follow?
Anna Wirt Special Guest Author © ARCHANGELMICHAEL777