How the Grinch Didn't Steal Christmas

I’ve always been fond of the Grinch in all his grinchiness, even though as the famous song states, he was once compared to a three-decker-saurkraut-and-toadstool-sandwich with arsenic sauce.

As I sat with my children watching Dr. Seuss's 1966 animated version of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" for probably the 33rd time, the message struck me rather profoundly this year. Punched me in the gut, in fact.
Christmas has been canceled for my family this year. When the school called me last week to have me come and pick up my sick child, I did so with a sense of foreboding, realizing that our travel plans very well could be in jeopardy. And I was right. She was diagnosed with a nasty virus that might as well be the flu, and is, naturally, highly contagious. She has not fully recovered. My husband was the next victim on the grinchy virus’s list. He can barely walk, much less get in the car to drive five hours. Our extended families let us know, with good reason, that they would not be traveling to our contaminated home this year, nor would we be traveling to theirs. I don’t blame them. But I could not help but feel some sadness that the best part of Christmas, being together with loved ones, was not going to happen for us this year.
So even before my annual viewing of the Grinch cartoon, I was having malicious thoughts about this particular virus as the Grinch who stole our Christmas.

So there I was in the recliner, with one kid on each leg, feeling rather grinchy myself – sour, pouty, and resentful of sickness in general. I watched as the Grinch predictably stood atop Mount Crumpit, rubbing his hands together and awaiting the loud cry of sadness to erupt from the Who’s in the valley upon realizing their stuff was gone. But then the narrator Boris Karloff uttered these classic words:
“Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small, was singing! Without any presents at all! He HADN'T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME! Somehow or other, it came just the same!”

Hmmm, I thought, perking up a bit and hearing something in this cartoon I’d seen a million times that might possibly be meant for me. Christmas came to Whoville even without their stuff….without their things that made Christmas be Christmas for them.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"

In that moment, the moment of the Grinch’s grand revelation, it became clear to me that my little family’s Christmas was going to come, just the same. Travel or no travel. Big Christmas dinner or not. Even if we eat Kraft macaroni and cheese on December 25th, it will be okay. The Grinch found out that Christmas is an unstoppable force among those who believe in it. Even though his theme song refers to his soul as “an appalling dump heap overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable,” the Grinch wasn’t too far gone to admit that he had made an enormous mistake.
But even more notable than that, the Who’s weren’t too bitter to forgive him for it. They even let him carve the roast beast.

And isn’t THAT what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown? The baby born as Christ the Lord has forgiven me and all of my Grinchy tendencies and various enormous mistakes. Christmas Day, in all of its joy and glory, is inevitably coming - and nothing can stop it. Maybe if I let go of my own humbug-ness, I’ll be free to welcome Him to the world once again this year, whether I am in my own home or someone else’s. And so, I’m going to do just that – because Christmas is not about me and my happiness. It’s not even about my family’s traditions, as beloved as those may be. It’s about Him.

This is not going to be the worst Christmas ever. As a matter of fact, in the face of some adversity, I would not be at all surprised if it ends up as one of the best.


The Jordan Idol Report

In my imagination, I climb into the DeLorean and race back to 1990 to warn my 13-year-old self that, 20 years later, I would be doing the unthinkable. Initially, my 13-year-old self just stares at me in bewilderment and wants to know when I had gotten crow’s feet around my eyes and whether or not my hair color is natural.

“There’s something you need to know,” I say to my young self. “It may seem a bit much to take in right now, but just bear with me. In fact, you might want to sit down.”

Teenage me slowly eases into a chair.

“In 2009, you are going to sing for New Kid on the Block Jordan Knight in an audition. Of sorts.”

(You see, in 1990, he was all THAT…
 nkotb old 
and here in my room, I was THIS…)
jen in nkotb room

In typical teenage fashion, my 13-year-old self leaps out of the chair and launches into a disbelieving tirade. “No way! You are lying. Don’t manipulate my emotions like that!”

“Calm down, Little Me. I’m not making fun of you. It’s true. I just thought you should know.”

With that, 33-year-old me mysteriously disappears, with fairy-godmother sparkles left in my place.  (This is my made-up story.  I don’t need a DeLorean.) And teenage me is left standing there breathless, hands shaking. She is a skinny little kid with bird legs and puffy permed bangs whose voice quivered whenever she sang in front of the church. How in the world was she going to have the guts one day to sing in front of Jordan Knight? It didn’t matter. She would figure it out later. Regaining her wits, she reaches for the phone to squeal the news to every single New Kids on the Block fan friend she ever had.

Fast-forward to November, 2009. Jordan Knight, now in full-fledged reunited boyband mode…
…is holding auditions across the country in the hopes of finding background singers for his album or even duet partners (and of course, though not explicitly stated, in the hopes of ingeniously creating a buzz to surround an upcoming solo album.) 

Thirty-three-year-old me, now in full-fledged soccer mom mode, knew the time had come. I was under no illusions about what the prospects would be for me. Still, though the past 20 years had not given me voice lessons, they had provided me a good bit more singing experience and some more confidence than I had in my bird-legged days. “How could I NOT go?” I asked my husband. “Just to say I did it. To be there, for the fun of it all.” Knowing the history I had with my favorite group from days of old, he had no real answer to that question. Actually, he understood, and made the statement that a comparable experience for him might be receiving a touchdown pass from Dan Marino in a Super Bowl against the 49'ers, or being Luke Skywalker battling Darth Vader - his childhood fantasies. So I went with his blessing and his encouragement, one of the many reasons that I have the greatest husband in the world.

In the days preceding the event, my stomach started to tie up in knots and the insomnia kicked in. Am I really going to do it?  I thought to myself.  And why am I freaking out like this? I was used to singing in front of a church. But this…this was way different. 

Here is the “teaser” video that came out just prior to the Atlanta event. Just watching it made me want to throw up.

What had started in the initial planning stages as a van-load of girlfriends traveling together had dwindled down to only one person – myself. One by one, everyone’s plans fell through, some even at the last minute. My true blue friend who was planning to accompany me all along wound up in the hospital that week. I missed her dearly, but standing in line outside the venue, I made new friends and met up with an old friend I had not seen in ten years. The blockhead community at work. Overthinker that I am, I had brought along a keychain that had a tiny recorder on it so I could discretely hear my starting note, a G.  But I discovered in line that the batteries had run down. And rather than trusting myself to start correctly, I spent most of my time in outside line trying to find a G in my head. A lost cause.

Inside the venue, my nervousness reached a new level and continued to skyrocket when Jordan Knight came on stage to welcome everyone and the judges were introduced. And when fellow New Kid Donnie Wahlberg took his place on the judges’ couch as a surprise guest judge later in the evening, I started to think this was all too much for me. I stood in the “singers line” waiting my turn to perform and enjoyed watching an endless parade of mostly amateurs getting our moment, as if we were all loyal subjects entertaining royalty. It was encouraging to note that no one was criticized, mocked, or ridiculed by either the judges or the crowd, in American Idol fashion. On the contrary, everyone got a polite response, whether it was deserved or not.

Later, as the line snaked past Jordan himself backstage, the girl in front of me told him that we were nervous. And I said, stupidly, “You have no idea.” I quickly amended that statement to, “Well, I guess you do have some idea.” He said that now we know how he feels. (Really? Jordan Knight still gets nervous?)

When Donnie Wahlberg squeezed past us, I had the opportunity to look right into the infernal dark glasses that he insists on wearing indoors and to tell him that I had written the blog he had tweeted recently.  As it registered, he spread both his arms out and wrapped me in a big bear hug.  I thanked him for sharing that link with the fans.

“What are you thanking me for?” he said, smiling. “You wrote it.”

He graciously signed a copy of it that I had brought along, and then he started to read the whole thing again.  I stood there beside him, awkwardly, and I finally said, “Um, you don’t have to read it now.”
“I remember this,” he said. “I actually read the whole thing. And that’s good for me because I have ADD.”  Gold star, Donnie.

By that time, it was almost my turn. As Jessa, the nice girl in front of me destined to become my cruise roommate, sang “Amazing Grace,” my nervousness started to ease up. I found my feet carrying me forward, and Kendrick Dean, the emcee, putting his arm around my neck, asking me my name, where I was from, and what I was singing. “But I gotta say my twitter name,” I said, since he had asked previously asked each contestant what their twitter name was, and it was relevant to the song I was about to sing, a re-write to the old NKOTB song, “I’ll Be Loving You Forever.”

In that moment, I realized why I had been so nervous all along. What if the re-write flopped? What if the crowd just blankly stared at me and didn't get it?  It was terrifying.  But it was too late for what-ifs. I was on the stage.

“I’m not that kind of girl with a five-star VIP,” I sang, referencing the high-priced concert meet and greet tickets. The crowd responded with laughter, and Jordan did, too. I felt more comfortable. I started to warm up. “There’s just so much that I wanna say,” I sang. “But when I try to tweet, all the spam gets in the way!” At the end, Jordan jumped up from the judges' sofa and reached up to hug me, and Donnie was on his feet. “That’s why I had to say my twitter name,” I said. 

Here is the clip that captures most of it.

And here is the 45-second clip that captures the reaction of the “judges”…Jordan Knight in white shirt and black tie, Donnie Wahlberg in baseball cap and vest.

I floated off the stage.  My teenage heart was soaring, not because of any abilities I have, but because I set out on a solo adventure to pursue a long-forgotten dream. I went that night all because my teenage self told me to.  Her voice does not often surface, and when it does, I don’t always listen to her. But every now and then, she has a pretty good idea.  I pause to consider it.  And if she’s lucky, I carry it through.  So, teenage me, I'm glad you're still a part of my life. I hope you’re still around 60 years from now when I’m 93. Because then, I’m certain, we could really have some fun.

Laurie and me standing in line at Jordan Idol
Atlanta, GA

Addendum: Two years have passed.  As far as we know, no word ever came to anyone about the results.  It simply “is what it is.”  Or rather, it was what it was.  Could it have been a PBI, maybe?  A partially-baked idea?  It seemed good to everyone at its inception.  And make no mistake, it was.  But I suspect that it was too complicated to carry it through to a resolution, for any number of reasons which I would not presume to speculate upon. 

I would have liked to see a conclusion of some sort, although I realize that no conclusion at all might just be the best possible outcome. That night in Atlanta brought some great friends into my life that I would have never known otherwise, and for that reason alone, it was worth it.  (Well, that…and the whole dream-come-true bit.)  I have no regrets. 

We still don’t know why you went through all that trouble, Jordan.  But we’re glad you did.  Thanks for a great memory.


In My Room

I took my kids to my hometown. An incredibly gorgeous fall weekend in the South, the kind that makes you feel alive. I loaded up the minivan, and they piled in, and we went to visit my parents, who still live in the same house that we moved into when I was 13. The house is the same, for the most part. It has had some cosmetic facelifts here and there – new porches on the back and front, a remodeled dining room, and brand new windows. There was no particular reason for the trip, nothing that compelled us to go, other than simply seeing my mom and dad, which, in itself, is not uncommon. But while I was there, I reflected on some profound things.

At night, I would settle my small children into double bed in what used to be my room, and I would lie down in the twin bed in the same room, which we jokingly referred to as our “motel.” And then I found myself staring at the ceiling and the same pale pink walls, contemplating the passage of time. The wallpaper border was the same one I remembered – pink bows tied in knots from end to end, all the way around the room. There was my old bookshelf, which still held a collection of reading material from approximately age 5 all the way through college. Where else could I find Sesame Street books and Great Expectations on the same shelf? My sliding closet doors bore tape residue from the celebrity posters that had hung there years ago. The view out the window had changed – a huge maple tree stood outside the window where there used to be no shade at all.

There, in the night, surrounded by my past, I thought about my present. I really have turned into a grown-up, I thought. And this was the room where I had so longed to become that. It used to seem so impossible to reach. This was the room where I had spent hours pouring my heart and soul into diaries full of teenage angst…where I had cried when I didn’t go to the prom…where I had a telephone permanently attached to my ear after school…where I struggled and fought with my physics homework. Where I wrote my boyfriend, who would be my husband, long letters when we were apart during summers home from college. The room where I sought God and felt His love and assurance surround me in times when I needed Him most. The room where I forged my own personhood and dreamed about the days that were ahead for me.

I grew up on Beach Boys music, thanks to the influence of my dad. And I was reminded of the 60’s song, “In My Room”… “There’s a world where I can go and tell my secrets to…in my room, in my room…do my dreaming and my scheming, lie awake and pray…do my crying and my sighing, laugh at yesterday.” The place in which I lay awake that night had been my sanctuary for so long. There was something sacred in the moment that I realized I was seeing the fulfillment of a dream in the bed across from me. Two little children, a boy and a girl, slept peacefully, snuggled up next to each other in the very room in which I had once wondered who they would be. I certainly could never have dreamed them up myself. I thought of the man I had back home and smiled…because I used to spend nights in that room wondering if there was anyone out there for me. Back then, it did not seem likely, but I was wrong.

I will probably never be as attached to any room – ever – as much as I am to that pink one. Sometimes in the woven tapestry of our lives we are given the opportunity to make connections. To trace the path of a single thread that starts at one end of the fabric and stretches all the way across to the other side – where another thread picks up the pattern and keeps going. That reflective weekend, I made some connections from my growing-up years to my grown-up years, thanks to the pink room that is still there. So mom, if you’re reading this, don’t remodel it. The border is a little out-of-date, and the color a little teenage-girly, but I still think of it as my room. And I probably always will. Let’s keep it that way.


Full Circle

I used to think that the only way to feel completely fulfilled as a New Kids on the Block fan would be a face-to-face meeting. A close encounter. One of those expensive VIP tickets not in my family budget. But I was mistaken. Knowing that Donnie Wahlberg, who was the force behind the whole reunion, read with his own eyes my post How NKOTB Re-Wrote History, heard my story, and shared that link with the world on twitter is utterly enough for me. 

Along with the link, he also tweeted, "My heart is so full. How does it just keep getting better? How do you all just keep making this more and more of an amazing journey?" Incidentally, I happened to be online when I saw his tweet get tweeted, and I leapt from my chair and began to jump around the room and scream, as my husband looked on. He had to be reminded that he does the exact same thing when he watches Alabama football games on TV.

I could never say in a 90 second meet-and-greet or in a random, fleeting brush with fame what I was able to say here. I can't believe I'm actually saying this, and some of you will think I have severely misplaced my blockhead priorities, but I would take that single tweet from Donnie over a 5-star VIP ticket any day. Hands down. I am astounded that my small voice was heard, and based on all of the feedback that I have received, it is evident that what I said resonated pretty deeply with many people. Twitter, how I love you.

There was an overriding theme in your responses. So many of you told me that I wrote YOUR story. Your feelings, your memories, your experience. One fan tweeted, "What I felt after reading your words was relief. I felt relieved knowing that it's documented, even if only in cyberspace. And also relieved that my exact feelings had been expressed and understood."

After reading numerous tweets from you all telling me that you needed a box of Kleenex after reading it, my husband shook his head and asked me, "What is the deal with all these crying women?" The deal is that we get a little emotional when we remember that we were all in the same boat back then. And we get a little more emotional when we realize that we climbed back into that boat together. We came full circle. We look a little different now, and have a few other life reponsibilities to manage, but the truth is, people don't really change. I have done a lot of living over the past 20 years, but I am still me. And those five guys, they're still basically the same people, too. Which is one reason why this reunion worked.

Some of you have also shared with me that the blog allowed you to give other non-fans (for lack of a better word) a glimpse into your "blockheadedness," so that they might understand you a little better. I hope it shed some light. But the only way to truly understand blockheadism is to be one yourself.

All of this to say - thank you for that tweet, Donnie Wahlberg. You have no idea how gratified I am to know that I got through.You just made up for countless unanswered fan letters from years ago. And if I ever get the chance to tell you that in person one day - well,then - that will just be gravy.


How NKOTB Re-Wrote History: A Fan's Redemption

It was 1989, and everything was big. It was the era of sky-high hair, enormous earrings, and oversized shirts. As a 12-year-old girl, I had no idea that I was on the brink of witnessing a very, very big phenomenon. It started innocently enough. The catchy chorus of a bubblegum song on the radio called “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” grabbed my attention. I remember buying the cassette single and admiring the faces of the cute boys on the box cover – five young men from Boston – the New Kids on the Block. Shortly thereafter, “Hangin’ Tough Live” aired on the Disney channel, and from that fateful moment, I was hooked. I really believed that I was in love, as much as a pre-teen could possibly be. The time had come to tear down the She-Ra Princess of Power posters of childhood and move on to what I perceived to be more grown-up interests – namely, these five famous, dreamy teenage boys. Up went every teeny bopper magazine pin-up of NKOTB that I could find, and I leaned heavily toward the Joey McIntyre ones.

Then the phone conversations began. Endless talks with my girlfriends long into the night…”Did you see what Jordan said on that TV special?” “Oh my gosh, Donnie pierced his nose!” “I wonder what kind of girls they like…” My parents’ money was spent freely on loads of NKOTB merchandising – button pins, T-shirts, CD’s, videos, puzzles, trading cards, hats, and of course, the all-important concert tickets.

Seeing those boys perform at Georgia Tech stadium on August 8, 1990 was one of the highlights of my entire young life up to that point. A whole football field away from them, way up in the nosebleed section, I couldn’t believe I was actually seeing them in the flesh. I was breathing the same air. I was so excited that I accidentally hit my dad in the face with the binoculars.

After that, I daydreamed about them during English class, scrapbooked their pictures as soon as I got home from school, and literally pined away for them. The crush I had was so intense that it hurt. It was hard enough being an adolescent and trying to make sense of relationships with boys in my own social circles. The New Kids were somehow a safe crush…so perfect, and so unattainable…it was easier to fixate on them than to have to worry about “real” boys. And undoubtedly, that was the reason that the “real” boys hated the New Kids. It was jealousy in its most obvious form. Though they would vehemently deny it if confronted, the New Kids were a very real threat to any hopes they had of winning over our affections. After all, how could the average, pimply-faced teenage boy compete with the perfectly styled big hair, fabulous wardrobes, and ├╝ber cool synchronized dance moves of the New Kids on the Block? No wonder that my husband now admits that back in those days, he wished he could punch Jordan Knight in the face.

But eventually, my love affair with the New Kids began to fade, as is typical for teenage crushes on celebrities. By the time the group officially dissolved, most of the fans had already moved on. My NKOTB posters came down and were replaced by the guys from Beverly Hills 90210, although my admiration for them never even came close to matching the epic proportions of my obsession with their predecessors. I knew I would always look back on my NKOTB craze with fondness, but I really believed it was over for good.

And then I spent the next seventeen years growing up. College, marriage, relocation, and children happened. Every now and then I would come across a former NKOTB fan, and we would reminisce about those days and laugh about having a “favorite.” It was all just a warm, fuzzy memory.

Until April of 2008. I was chatting with my sister-in-law who breezily asked, “Oh, did you hear the New Kids on the Block are coming back?” My heart skipped a beat. I felt butterflies in my stomach. “What?” I laughed, playing it off. “Are you kidding me?” She wasn’t. Coming back, I thought. What did that mean? Some kind of goofy appearance on a late-night talk show just for kicks? And what did they even look like now? At the time, I didn’t know. All I knew was that the 13-year-old fan in me, who had apparently never really grown up, needed information, and fast. Never had I been more thankful for the internet, as I rushed home to my computer and quickly discovered that there was to be a reunion performance in May on the Today show.

There was a group photo released, and a new song, and I was positively giddy. I was not the only one. Fans came out in droves to see the New Kids perform on stage together for the first time in fifteen years on the Today Show, one of the largest gatherings ever at Rockefeller Plaza. Once again, the New Kids had seized on perfect timing, in the same way that they had years ago. They had been away long enough for their original fans to miss carefree days gone by, but not long enough to be forgotten. It wasn’t just that we enjoyed seeing them again on TV. NKOTB was a symbol – a representation of an entire era in our lives, an era that took place before we became worried about recessions, wars, and mortgages. All of a sudden, we got the fever again. We wanted more New Kids. We wanted concerts, new music, and press coverage. Demand for the group was reborn.

I was ecstatic to get a brand new NKOTB CD in my hands, ‘’The Block,” which proved that the boys were all grown up musically and in every other way, as well. It really didn’t matter that prejudiced radio stations wouldn’t play the new songs. Apparently, they were run by the same jealous adolescents who had grown up and still wanted to punch Jordan in the face. Shunning demand for the group seemed to be an indirect way for them to exact their revenge. But the fans made the magic happen themselves.

In September of 2008, the reunion tour kicked off, selling out venues in many places in a matter of minutes, much to everyone’s surprise. My entire summer was spent networking with other fans, teaching New Kids songs to my children, and literally counting the days until the concert in Atlanta. By sheer act of will, I did not allow myself to read a single concert review, watch youtube videos of the show, or even look at other fans’ pictures. I wanted the moment that they hit the stage to surprise me with the same delight that I had experienced in 1990. My husband, ever the New Kids critic, picked on them (and me) for months, but it was all in fun, and I had a sneaking suspicion that he might even be won over eventually. Being the good sport that he is, he went with me to the show and even waved his hand in the air to “Hangin’ Tough,” while all the girls around us patted him on the back in encouragement and appreciation.

The show itself was all I had hoped for. And as the tour ended, I assumed that we would hear about some official closure from the guys, and it would all be over at that point.

But I was wrong. Little did anyone suspect that 2009 was to be a grand extension of what had already begun. We learned that fans would be treated not only to a spring tour, but a cruise with the group. I wondered where the guys found the superhuman stamina to keep up such a tremendous pace. And then the frenzy began again in earnest. Dates for a brand new “Full Service” summer tour began to leak out. “Blockheads” were relentless in scooping up tickets to second, third, fourth, and even fifth concerts in the course of a year.

And in the midst of it all, there were the guys – twittering away to the fans, keeping us occupied with minute details of their lives, and stretching us to do things we never thought we would do for the chance of winning contests to meet them. I felt like a little teenage girl the night that Jordan posted a vlog including instructions and details on how to win a trip to one of their Today Show performances. I lay awake all night, scheming and plotting how I might win, and planning my very own trip to New York City for an up-close-and-personal meeting with the dreams I had as a teenager. I had already decided how I would choose the friend who would accompany me when I was forced back into reality upon realizing that I had lost. I was reminded that years ago I had entered a Teen Beat magazine contest to win Joey McIntyre’s famous black hat, and, so certain of my victory, it had also come to naught.

It gave me pause. How had I, once again, become putty in their hands, exactly as I had been years before? You're an adult, I told myself. So how could I have possibly regressed into a "fangirl" once again? The marketing team for NKOTB, whoever they were, had me exactly where they wanted me – pining away again, hanging on the New Kids’ every word, but still having the time of my life in the process. So instead of being resentful toward those admittedly saavy marketers, I simply acknowledged that I did, in fact, fall squarely into the target demographic just as I had almost 20 years before, and then gleefully salivated for even more NKOTB, as any good blockhead would.

Seeing the group on the summer tour was an unforgettable milestone for me. I was with a fellow fan this time who grasped the gravity of the experience. But what really gripped me was the opening line of the entire concert as the video montage began, “I know it’s hard – to see me go – to see me standing – so close to the door.” I told myself that it was just a song about a lover going away, a very general love song, and that I was reading too much into the words. But I was distressed by a feeling in the pit of my stomach. Oh, no. I thought. What if it's a message to the fans…that it wouldn’t be too long before they would be the ones going? What if this concert was a chance to see them “standing close to the door” before they walked out of it for the last time? I was surprised and a little embarrassed to notice tears pricking at my eyes and a big old lump in my throat. When I got home and pondered the possibility some more, I was even more bewildered by my emotions.

During the first wave of New Kids success, most of us were fickle teenagers who quickly and easily moved on to the next thing. Fickle as we were, the relationship that we had with this group in the late 80’s/early 90’s had marked us in ways that we could not fully understand until our 30’s. They were our first loves, the objects of our dreams, and the privilege of enjoying them years later was something I had never fathomed. So to think of them leaving again would mean closing a chapter for good. It was never really a new chapter. It was the exact same one that was begun in the past. Whenever they do leave, I thought, I will have to close this beautiful, tender childhood book that has just been opened once again, and I will somehow feel even older. For this reason, the fanbase, as a whole, has worried and fretted and wrung its hands.

But for the second time in the course of a year, I was once again proved wrong in predicting the end. Donnie Wahlberg's reassuring tweets have convinced me that my fears have been irrational. Even upon the conclusion of the summer tour, rumblings and rumors about another new album and future tours are prevalent, much to my delight. As long as the demand is there, and the guys are willing, I remain in steadfast support.

But I cannot bear the thought of a slow and painful fading away into obscurity. They deserve better than that. We all do. Instead, whenever the group determines that the ride is over, even if it’s years away, I will long for a figurative tip of the trademark black hat, a formal acknowledgment of the impact of both the past and the present, and a blown kiss goodbye as they ride into the sunset. Though that moment will be painfully bittersweet, it is my hope, as a fan, for a re-write to the old ending. A redemption, as Donnie Wahlberg once aptly described the reunion. A definitive moment in time when they choose to show us their cards and lay down their last hand, exiting with grace, just as it should be. As it always should have been. But the chance to pen the final chapter the first time around in the way that they intended had somehow been elusive.

Make no mistake – I never want this ride to end. But I will never begrudge them their choice to take a bow when that time comes, although it will undoubtedly evoke strong emotions in me. After all, they are ever the masters of perfect timing. Just as they stormed back on the scene at the most opportune time, in the most perfect way, I believe that one day, they will perceptively sense the appropriateness of real closure. The closure we never really had before. The chance for them, for us – for the “five brothers and a million sisters” – to say goodbye to one another. Until then, NKOTB, you have marked my life in immeasurable ways. You really did have the last word in the end. I thank you…I salute you…and I will never forget you.

My friend and I at the June 4, 2009 concert in Atlanta in our vintage T-shirts. Thanks to my mom for saving them all of these years.

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