As a child, my knowledge of Michael Jackson was limited.
He’s remained more-or-less a mystery to me every since "Free Willy" days, when I fell in love with the theme song, “Will You Be There.” Even though I wasn’t exactly of the generation most directly affected by Michael Jackson, when I think back on my childhood, it still seems that he was inexplicably an integral part of it.
I was too young to comprehend the messy, often bizarre happenings of Jackson’s alleged Neverland escapades and skin color transformation.
Instead, Jackson was simply a musician who offered up kid-friendly music that had the enormous power to instantly put everyone in a good mood.
I was reminded of this sentiment as I made my way to the singer’s memorial on Tuesday morning in downtown Los Angeles.
Clutching my coveted ticket and blue and gold wristband, I eagerly passed by street vendors shilling hastily made t-shirts, buttons with images of a young Jackson and silver aviator sunglasses.
Upon finally reaching my seat the Staples Center, my eyes were drawn to Jackson’s golden casket, draped in an elaborate bouquet of flowers.
It was still difficult to believe Jackson had died. Perhaps the surreal nature of the moment was due to the fact that Jackson has never actually been "real" to any of his fans — his larger-than-life stage performances, sequined outfits and outlandish lifestyle always created an aura that was never truly of this world.
Though I was attending the event as a journalist, I felt like a fan in disguise. I was tempted to pause my Blackberry live blogging of the morning’s events and sing along to the songs in full voice as the girl behind me did.
Instead of noting when the couple next to me clutched hands and shed tears while Jackson’s daughter gave her emotional tribute, I wanted to let my own emotions show.
Memories began rapidly circling through my head: early weekend mornings spent making pancakes in the kitchen, while my father would take out Jackson’s albums and let "Bad" waft through our home’s speakers.
A summer at sleep-away camp, where my bunk performed an elaborate dance to "Thriller" during a talent show with glittering white gloves on one hand. Evenings I spent endlessly re-watching that great Jackson movie on VH1 which chronicled his life, wondering if Joe Jackson had really been that cruel to the singer when he had been my age.
In the days following his death, songs like "You Are Not Alone," and "Heal the World" echoed from the speakers of the cars next to me on the freeway during the L.A. commute home.
It seemed that everyone knew not just one song, but almost all of Jackson’s repertoire. There is something inexplicable about the connection that his music has forged between our disjointed society that so rarely ever agrees upon anything.
And it was that bond that was on display during Tuesday’s memorial. So when in the final moments of the ceremony, a mourner asked the crowd to join hands and bow our heads in a prayer for Jackson, we journalists abandoned our smart phones and gripped the hands sweaty palms of our neighbors.
Those wearing fedoras and shiny gloves, those iconic singers who paid tribute to Jackson on stage, and even those with press passes swinging around our necks – we were all fans.