I learned about Prince’s death during the 2-hour wait to board the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria. I was still basking in the residual glow and euphoria of the Paul McCartney concert that my oldest daughter (OD) and I went to the night before.
Imagine, not only breathing the same air as the ‘cute’ Beatle, but singing along with him. And twenty thousand other people but it felt like he was there just for me. Until Wednesday night singing along to these particular songs only ever happened in the privacy of my upstairs bedroom at 204, where I pretended he was right there with me. Picture it. I’m sixteen years old, lying flat on my back on the floor, eyes closed, the LP Rubber Soul blaring from my record player and I am in teenage heaven.
It was the concert to end all concerts for me. A lifelong rock ‘n roll dream that I never really thought would come true. Shit like that didn’t happen to small-town girls raised in blue-collar neighborhoods from the middle of Nowhere Land. It just didn’t.
But there I was decades later grooving to one of my teenage idols. It was surreal.
It was equally surreal to be sitting in a ferry line-up and flipping through Instagram only to see a photo of my office wall come into my feed. The photo was taken by my youngest daughter (YD) with the caption “Shitty #ripprince #1999.” I immediately commented on her post with, “What?!”
In utter disbelief, I quickly typed #RIPPRINCE in the Instagram search bar. And sadly, post after post, photo after photo appeared with the same message. It rained purple tears.
I went to see Purple Rain with my oldest daughter (OD), the one who treated me to the Paul McCartney concert. She was six at the time. A bit young for a movie experience like that, I know. Please don’t judge. I’ve done plenty of self-condemnation over the past decades, so no need. I’ve taken care of that business for you.
But in my defense, feeble as my case may be, I was irrefutably out of my right mind at the time. I was freshly separated from my husband. My life was more than messy. It was a washout, a calamity of cataclysmic proportions. To say I wasn’t thinking clearly and not making the best decisions, would be putting it politely.
The thing was I loved Prince’s music and I thought he was beautiful and mysterious and sexy and an extraordinary musician. When Purple Rain came out in the summer of 1984, I really wanted to see it. We were living in Toronto. I was a newly minted single mother. I felt alone. Abandoned. Forsaken. Forgotten. And friendless. And by friendless, I mean no babysitter.
So I did what I thought was a good idea at the time. I took my not-yet-six-year-old daughter to see Purple Rain.
Over the years I have been plagued with guilt and have had many regrets about that decision. Questioned my sanity. Pondered the wisdom and prudence of my behavior. Lost sleep worrying that I had scarred her for life. Turned her into a music junkie. A lover of screaming guitar licks. Fostered a penchant for all-things purple. Inspired her to wear platform shoes.
Who knows what horrors I may have unleashed upon my innocent child that Saturday afternoon when we boarded the Dufferin Street bus and headed north to the Yorkdale Mall? No child, we were not going shopping. We were going to the movies. And not some run-of-the-mill bland Disney thing either. We were going to a cinematic and historic event. An epic musical phenomenon.
We were going to see Prince in Purple Rain.
The day after Prince died I texted my oldest daughter (OD) and asked her what she recalled of that movie-going experience and how it had affected her.
She texted the following:
“It was great to see Purple Rain as a kid. What stands out: the skinny-dipping scene and the fight he has with his father. Wanting to be on the back of his motorcycle. Jimmy Jam. How fun they were performing onstage.”
And then she texted this:
“I wouldn’t feel guilty. It was a good thing and a fond memory!”
Maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t such a bad mother after all.