I just took my two kids to bed. Despite them sitting on the couch with droopy eyes and yawning faces, they moaned and groaned about having to go to bed. Even though it’s a school night, they wanted to stay up late into the evening. I had to put on my daddy-face and enforce the bed-time, but I also laughed a little at myself. I remember being that age and wanting so badly to stay up late. It made me feel “big.”
To stay up after 8:00 was a big event when I was so young. Hearing the opening sequence of Monday Night Football at 9:00 was a distinct “stay up late” milestone at one point in my life. On Saturdays, being able to stay awake all the way through “Love American Style” to the scary opening credits of “Night Gallery” just after 10:00 was indeed a sleepy medal of honor. But the ultimate goal of staying up late was that magical moment when one would hear the booming voice of Ed McMahon saying those infamous words, “Heeeeere’s Johnny!” Hearing Ed’s voice made me feel big.
As I grew a little older to age 14, other interests made me feel more grown up. I was well into puberty and my focus was mostly on the opposite sex. There was no example of sexuality more popular, and accepted by the mainstream, than the hit TV show, Charlie’s Angels. I recall my brother being in college and talking about the show. Eventually, it was one of the staple shows we watched as a family…publicly for the Aaron Spelling produced action, but more subtly for the titillating action of the three actresses which entertained me and my dad. Like so many other teens in 1976, I had the famous poster of one of the actresses, Farrah Fawcett. I remember my brother wanted it as much as I, but it donned my walls. My first poster. My first crush. And Farrah made me feel grown up.
Eventually though, this poster and others accompanied me to college. The drinking age back then was 18 and the place to socialize and feel grown up at the university was at any number of local bars and dance clubs. The Disco Era had long passed a decade ago, but new dance music emitted from the DJ booth. This was also the booming age of MTV and everyone was into it. To watch MTV and go to dance clubs meant that you were part of the “in” crowd, which of course was all about feeling “big”…feeling grown up…feeling accepted. There was no greater icon of both of both MTV and dance clubs than Michael Jackson. We all danced to “Beat It” and we all owned his album, “Thriller.” The album was not just popular, but it was also damned good music (and still is). To hear Michael’s music and move to its rythym made me feel part of the crowd.
These three icons passed away this week. Ed died on Tuesday while Farrah and Michael both left us today (Thursday). Each had their difficulties and bad publicity later in life, ranging from bankruptcy to bizarre behavior, but they still remained positive symbols of their peak era. And each, ironically, served as a milestone as I grew up. In the past, each, in their unique way, made me feel more grown up. Their passing saddens me as it somewhat marks the passing of my youth. But now that I’m grown up, thinking back on these moments makes me feel young again. I suppose memories of growing up still makes me feel good and hopeful for what lays ahead for me, and my sleepy, growing kids.