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The Inner Child: Gary, Indiana 2010

Love Through A Child's Heart Files

Numerous articles have been written about Michael Jackson's childhood home in Gary, Indiana. Experiences and heart-felt words fill each page of those who have shared their stories with us. I mused about writing an article about my trip to Gary, often questioning myself about how I could convey my own feelings about my pilgrimage to Michael's childhood home. My conclusion: I should write from the heart. Here is my story from the pages of my journal... 

On Friday, August 27, my husband sent me a text at 7am stating, "Pack your luggage; you are going to Indiana!" At this point, you have to understand, I had already accepted the fact that I would have to miss this year's events due to budget issues. So when the text came in I reacted as if I had won a million dollars! I was so excited and scared at the same time because I would have to make this nine-hour drive alone.  

MapQuest is one of those applications that require you to be acquainted with your destination because roadwork may change your direction of travel. This was the case when I arrived in Momence, Illinois at two in the morning. Cornfields encompassed me while my headlights illuminated a "Road Closed" sign ahead. Finally finding a detour out of the corn-maze, I arrived at the first hotel in Merrillville, Indiana that seemed to fit my budget. I learned quickly that it pays to plan ahead for the right accommodations. Merrillville is a small city just ten minutes south of Gary, Indiana. If you visit the area, you will find many hotels, restaurants and shopping centers there for your enjoyment.

Saturday, August 28, I awoke to find in the morning newspaper that the City of Gary was planning to celebrate Michael's 52nd Birthday at two that afternoon. The morning went by fast and I was on my way to Gary.
2300 Jackson Street
Michael's Childhood Home
Never Can Say Goodbye
Gifts for the "King of Pop"
Handmade Roses from Heather 
While driving past orange and white construction barrels, I wondered what life was like for young Michael and his eight siblings to grow up in such humble beginnings. When I approached Jackson Street, barrels similar to the ones I followed on the highway once again appeared, blocking off the ends of the street. After parking, I made my way up Jackson Street trying to take in all the magical feelings that were like butterflies in my belly. "This is really it. Michael lived here on this very street!"  
At the end of Jackson Street, I found myself standing in front of a humble white house that could only be compared in size to a two-car garage. There was a black metal gate surrounding the property with red balloons and a birthday banner in front of a breathtaking black/gray stone monument that was unveiled in June by Michael's beloved mother, Mrs. Katherine Jackson, in honor of her son. 
I escaped the heat that morning by finding a shaded place to sit by a local vendor who sold water for a small fee. Sitting there, I began to watch the neighborhood children play along the sidewalk. I observed a small child about the age of six looking through the black gate at the large monument erected for Michael. The two poems that Michael wrote, "innocence" and "Child of innocence," came to mind. Here is an excerpt from the poem "innocence"... 

"When you get right down to it, survival means seeing things the way they are and responding. It means being open.
And that's what innocence is.  It's simple and trusting like a child, not judgmental and committed to one narrow point of view. If you are locked into a pattern of thinking and responding, your creativity gets blocked. You miss the freshness and magic of the moment. Learn to be innocent again, and that freshness never fades."

In these so simple words, I realized this trip would not only be about celebrating Michael's life but also learning about the "innocence" inside myself.  
Gary, Indiana Home of Michael Jackson 
Michael Jackson Birthday Cake

Mr. Joe Jackson (middle, seated) Relaxes before Cake Ceremony
We Could Never Say Goodbye, From the People of Gary
White Glove - King of Pop cake
As everyone waited for the day's events to start, I spoke with some of the locals. One young gentleman stated that he was from the next street over and had lived in Gary all of his life. He expressed to me that he was waiting to be discovered like Michael. Michael had inspired him to be a rap artist and, to be honest, he was quite the performer. I will never forget the last words he spoke to me: "Michael never came back to live in Gary, but I know he never forgot where he came from." The plans for that day went on as planned when Michael's father, Mr. Joe Jackson, arrived to cut the four birthday cakes set up on tables that lined the side of the home.
I did get a chance briefly to speak with Michael's Father, Mr. Joe Jackson to tell him who I was from the MJTP family and to say hello. He was very kind in his reply, wishing all of us at MJTP “a good day."  

A stage with speakers taller than my 5'5" stature was set up for the "Block-Party" style celebration. Playing from the speakers were MJ tunes ranging from "Thriller,” “Billie Jean” and “Dirty Diana" to the Jackson 5 hit "ABC" and Michael's youthful solo "Ben."                             
Center Stage Block Party Celebration 
Locals Dancing for the Fans
A few of the locals started dancing as a younger boy joined in, the fans making a circle around them. It was amazing! We all started singing and dancing even thought the heat was almost unbearable. Many of the vendors sold souvenirs out of their own front yards. The souvenirs included magnets, buttons, DVDs, music, posters. The fans had a chance to take photos with MJ impersonators or to pose in front of Michael-themed backdrops. The youngest fan I found was a cutie named Josiah who was only two months old. 
MJ Impersonator Poses for Photo 
 Fans Shop for Souvenirs
Little Josiah
It was nice to see how so many people came together to celebrate Michael's life. But, even in this joyous crowd of people, my mind kept wandering back to the young boy that I had noticed earlier, looking through the gates at 2300 Jackson Street. What was life going to be like for that precious child? Then, thinking of all the possibilities, something triggered inside my own inner child. I found myself  pondering about whom I had become and what kind of legacy I would be leaving behind for my own children. As adults, we often see life as abstract, thinking of all the things that could happen and reacting. I am not saying to be naive, but we must condition ourselves to think and react in such a way that we challenge those thought processes that we learned from our environment as we were growing up. You become who you think you are. Your dreams are what you make them. You are your own worse critic. If you would just stop for a moment and take the time to look at the "innocence" of  your inner child, what do you think he/she would say to you?  

Sunday, August 29! Happy Birthday, Michael! Several fans were gathered outside when I arrived at Michael's childhood home. The media cameras from the day before had disappeared along with some of the vendors, but I was delighted to see the fans and another cake to be cut by Michael's father.
Jackson Tassic
While walking around and buying my last-minute treasures, I observed a young fan wearing a black fedora,"King of Pop" t-shirt and Michael’s signature white glove. I continued shopping and made my way over to introduce myself. I learned that he had placed first in the Round Lake BeachFest County Fair on June 19, 2010, dancing to Michael's famous MTV's "Billie Jean."  His mother, Mata Tassic, told me that her son's name was Jackson.  What a special name for such a talented young man!  
Aware that it was getting late in the afternoon, I decided to embark on the nine-hour drive ahead. A few tears started to roll down my cheeks as I saw Jackson Street fade in my rearview mirror. 
Leaving 2300 Jackson Street
Several weeks have now passed since my trip. The friends I met along the way I will never forget.  Also, that inner-child that I discovered inside myself while in Gary is still with me. She is teaching me the "innocence" that I left in my youth. The world is really not a bad place after all as long as we embrace our inner child.  
Child of innocence 
 By Michael Jackson 

Child of innocence, I miss your sunny days 
We joyously frolicked in extended plays 
Ever since you've left the scene 
The streets are lonely, dark and mean 

Child of innocence, return to me now 
With your simple smile show them how 
This world once again can respond to your glance 
And heartbeats flutter to the rhythm of your dance 

Child of innocence, your elegance, your beauty 
Beckons me now beyond the call of duty 
Come fly with me far and above 
Over the mountains in the land of love 

Child of innocence, messenger of joy 
You've touched my heart without a ploy 
My soul is ablaze with a flagrant fire 
To change the world is my deepest desire.



Finding Love Through A Child's Heart,

- Heather, Director of Children's Awareness


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© Heather Nutt, 2010, 2011, 2012 Revised. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Permission from Author. 

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