On Prince: Today is my son's December 9, 1980

My son’s childhood has become a little less childlike. I know this because Prince died earlier today. Prince, the superstar icon from my 1980’s childhood, the one who added the color, the florescence to the 80s. It wasn’t just the purple from Purple Rain. Remember watching the video to “Raspberry Beret”? The colors in that video matched the bright pinks and purples on my Jellies. Or were the Jellies neon purple because of Prince?

raspberry beret

But Prince was part of my formative years, not my son’s. He was not alive during the summer of 1984 when “Purple Rain” deluged the planet, especially my little summer-before-fifth-grade tween world. Our high school babysitters had the “Purple Rain” soundtrack and MTV at their house. We memorized all the songs, not just “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy”. All of it, even “Darling Nikki”. We were told it probably wasn’t a good idea if we told our mom they played it for us. That just made it even better, R-rated lyrics and all.

He will never know 1999 as a future date.

I know exactly how my son feels, because I was his age on December 9, 1980, the day after an icon from my parent’s generation died, when most of us who were sleeping through “Monday Night Football” found out John Lennon died. While the newly-released “Just Like Starting Over” was starting to get radio airplay, I certainly didn’t know his Beatles years, or the bulk of his solo work.

My son came home early today because of a half-day at school. He came home happy, energetic, playing a matching game with his little sister. All of that changed once he saw me just shaking my head, not really understanding what was going on with his mom.

He saw me in the car listening to me backtrack through my childhood with “Kiss”, “When Doves Cry”, “Sign of the Times” and “I Would Die 4 You”, all heard on the short drive to Portillo’s for lunch, interspersed by the V103 DJ’s voice asking people to call in about their Prince memories, that he is now gone. We did drive-thru today so I could listen to some more.

I looked back at him in the car. He had a puzzled look on his face, a look that wondered, “Why?”

I know that look because I also had that same look on my face after a car ride with my mother on December 9, 1980.

After getting off the bus that day, all happy from a day in first grade, I piled into the car with her and my sister, no doubt to “run errands” as she often said. She also had the radio on in the car. I am pretty sure at that time her 1974 Nova only had AM radio, the stations that thrived because of the Beatles. They said John Lennon was dead. I remember telling her what she already knew, “Mommy, John Lemmon is dead.” Just like my son, I was not happy anymore when I got out of the car at home. I also wondered why, who was this person on the radio whose death is making my mommy sad.

I came to know and love John Lennon’s music, just with the suffix posthumously. I hope I can say the same of my son, that he will learn to appreciate Prince’s music, also with that same suffix. I know I will help as long as I am around. He can party like it’s 1999 in 2029. He will know the sounds of doves crying. I will even introduce him to Nikki, in due time of course.

I felt this way when Michael Jackson unexpectedly passed almost 7 years ago. But my son was a baby then. He is not now. He now knows what death is, that it happens to old people whose bodies stop working and in 2016, increasingly to rock stars from when mommy was his age.

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Tags: classic rock, parenting

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