Uncontrollable giggling. This is what I remember from a sixth-grade assembly in which my then-best friend and I decided to perform Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All" as a duet. We had to perform twice, as the school assemblies were repeated two times, one after the other, to accommodate the whole student body. We did fine for the first performance, but the second one was fouled up by our nervousness and tendency to break down into fits of laughter if we even looked at each other (which we made the mistake of doing that second time). We tried to pull ourselves together and did make it to the end of the song.
Such strange and strong memories stir with the untimely death of Whitney Houston. My elementary years were so marked by two musical icons, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, both of whom fell hard from the heights of fame and lost their lives too early. Tied to all of these memories is my best friend from this period, Danielle, who was bolder and more forceful than me. I was very shy and self-conscious, but Danielle, with this much stronger personality and a need to be outgoing and the center of attention, brought me along for the ride much of the time, imbuing me with more courage to find and be myself.
The memories of this period are awkward, largely because being an adolescent is awkward. But how bizarre to think of a time in my life when I felt insanely self-conscious and yet still found the courage to sing and dance in front of crowds, to play a lead role in a school musical and perform, completely outside myself. Reflecting on the person I was inside, the person I really am, it seems astoundingly bizarre that I would have been friends with someone like Danielle (just because we were so very different), and stranger yet, would have been listening to Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston (particularly the latter. Houston had talent, but she was never my style. I think I liked Houston because Danielle liked Houston, and then, as now, I did not want to rock the boat. The difference now is that my tastes are unflinchingly and completely my own).
What is left to say? Rest in peace, Whitney Houston, who turned a semi-known Dolly Parton number ("I Will Always Love You") into a massive hit that will always be associated with Houston (and not Parton).