Blessed Imagination… and Michael Jackson

Throughout my childhood, I lived almost exclusively in my imagination—especially at night. I loved the moment when day finally succumbed to night, as the darkness provided the occasion for my imagined world to fully bloom. During the daytime, I missed all of those benevolent creatures who, in the nighttime kept me company as they led me into the surreal world of dream. My parents always left the door to my bedroom open a crack. I like to believe that they were privy to my beloved company, and left the door ajar to welcome them in.

Very rarely did my imagination drift towards paranoia. The only thing, apart from the devil, that terrified me was the prospect of being orphaned by way of a fatal car accident or the multitude of other tragedies I conjured for my parents when they went out for an evening. These imaginings were vividly morbid; sometimes they demanded that I cry into the pillow I propped up in front of the sliding glass window of my parents’ bedroom which overlooked the bright city lights of Calgary. Thankfully, my parents always managed to return to me at the end of their date. As soon as I saw their rusty Volvo climb the hill leading to our house, I’d sneak back to my bedroom and finally give way to the burden of terrified exhaustion which had accumulated over the course of my parents’ date.

My favourite game was to pretend I was Mr. Rogers. I would enact his entire opening song, over and over in my bedroom. I’d open the door to my room and cast my gaze toward an invisible camera while singing his trademarked song. I’d hang up my ‘outside jacket’ in favor of my ‘inside sweater’. I’d trade outside shoes for inside loafers. I’d make the most of the beautiful day outside my window by singing about it from within. I was embarrassed when my parents caught me in the midst of my mimicry.

Mr. Roger’s song was one of many I kept at the forefront of my young memory. My cassette tape player, and my inherited miniature record player became central to my existence. I kept the former underneath the skirt of my bed. As soon as I heard my parents turn on the TV after they’d tucked me in and recited a rhyming prayer, I would reach for my cassette player and accompanying headphones.

My tape collection was limited to those tapes I had raided from my parents’ collection. Reba MacIntyre, along with the Nylons and Michael Jackson, provided the soundtrack to my earliest dreams. I would lip-synch to those tunes, imagining I was on stage. My mystical visions were a-cappellically apocalyptic.

Michael Jackson is the only musician present in both my childhood and my adulthood. Thriller was the only recording of his that I had access to at that time; the title track gave me night-time shivers. I remember one night, when I was feeling particularly mischievous, I planted one of my Fisher-Price walky-talkies under my sister’s bed and stuck the other one in front of my tape player’s sole black speaker. About ten minutes after she went to bed, I hit play, sending Vincent Price’s ominous cackle through the airwaves of my second favourite toy, causing my sister to scream and finally cry. I could be cruel, as well.

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