Saturday, June 27, 2009

Childhood Lost

In Jr. high school I had an English teacher named Mr. Sharpe. He was the only black teacher in my school, which had a 30-40% black student body. Mr. Sharpe was an odd fellow, looked sort of like Clarence Thomas and always dressed impeccably. He also had the trait of saying some things three times. One of his favorite lines was, "I want you to think, think think! T-H-I-N-K T-H-I-N-K T-H-I-N-K Think! Think! Think!" I remember too that the black kids did something that neither I nor my white friends did; they carried around with them pictures of their favorite singers. I think half the black kids at my school had a picture of James Brown in their wallet or notebook.

One day a girl in my English class pulled out a picture of the Jackson Five and showed it to Mr. Sharpe. "Do you like the Jackson Five Mr. Sharpe?" she asked.

He replied, "Well, they sing very nice."

"Do you like Michael?"

I remember to this day what he said. At the time I thought it was a really strange thing to say and that he couldn't be more wrong. Over the years, Mr. Sharpe proved to be precinct in his evaluation. "I think that boy being so popular so young is a very, very bad thing. Every child needs a childhood and this boy is not getting his. I think it will trouble him for the rest of his life."

How sad for Michael. He really was Peter Pan, the boy who could never grow up. To leave childhood behind, you have to have a childhood and Michael could never let go of what he never really had.

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