This weekend I traveled to New York for a belated 16th birthday present to my daughter, Lyndsay. Since we were meeting up with friends, it was more convenient to fly into and out of the Newark airport and take the shuttle to and from the city and it was not lost on me that I was in Whitney Houston's hometown. On our return trip we spent hours in the airport due to a maintenance delay and by the time we arrived in Orlando hours after we were supposed to, I was tired, hungry and ready to go to bed.
Lyndsay is a practical joker, and she had spent the weekend doing and saying things that I knew were not true in order to get a reaction out of me. So I thought she was at it again when she looked up from her cell phone and said, “Mom, Whitney Houston' s dead!” It wasn’t until I turned on the radio in my car that I realized the horrible truth because the station was playing one Whitney hit after another.
I sat in the car in disbelief not wanting to believe that she was gone. As I listened to the musical tribute, I realized that, like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston’s music has been a soundtrack to my life. It was her music that was playing in the background as Mia, my best friend in high school, and I got dressed to go out for the night. And it was Whitney Houston's voice that sang me to sleep the night my first grown up love broke my heart and I realized he was not who he said he was. There's no arguing that her voice was perfect and she was more talented than any of the singers that came before, or even after her, but it was her ability to put into melody exactly what I was feeling that made me believe that I knew her and that she, somehow, was there for all of my triumphs and disappointments.
I was working in the mall at Camelot Records the first time I heard her voice, but that wasn't when I began loving her. It was when I saw her on the cover of Seventeen Magazine that I realized that she was something special. All through my teenage years I read Seventeen Magazine but I never saw myself reflected on the cover until that day. Seeing her face made me feel that I was possible.
I got busy with life and forgot about Whitney until I saw her on the big screen as Savannah in Waiting to Exhale. Watching Whitney's character and her three girlfriends experience life's highs and lows was transformational. I can't even put it into words what it meant to me.
Several years ago my step-daughter Tai and Lyndsay would watch Whitney and Bobby's show and talk about all of the crazy things that would happen on each episode, but I refused to watch. I just could not stand to see her in any light other than a flattering one. There were times when I heard her singing on television programs when I knew that she didn't sound as good as she used to, but I refused to accept it. I thought that she would be restored to her former glory. I thought she was going to get a second chance, but I guess sometimes in life there just aren't any second chances. Maybe that's what makes me so sad about her death. After all she wasn't a family member or a friend. I didn't know the intimate details of her life and I never saw her in person. She was just a celebrity on a stage and on TV. A beautiful woman on the pages of my favorite magazines, but I was rooting for her all along. I wanted Whitney to have a testimony. I honestly thought she was going to make a comeback.
Whitney Houston was my Phoenix. I thought she would rise from the ashes of her life. I feel sad and cheated because it wasn't supposed to end like this. Where is the happy ending?