Just Kids

Where did it go? This time…

Twenty years as a group. It’s a crazy number to think about. I feel old when I do. It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long sometimes. At other times, it feels like a century. Is that weird? Probably. I don’t talk to the others about it. We all reminisce, how can we not? But none of us have been going too deep about it. Sometimes I think we should. Then again, not all the memories are good ones. It took a lot to get where we are now. The ride was definitely a crazy one.

I remember when I first auditioned; a lot of people know that story. How I danced and sang, even hurting myself doing it. I’ve wondered since if my talent even mattered to Lou. Especially a few years ago. I figured he saw me as the “pretty blonde” that would get the most girls and brought me in just for that. I know better now. At least, I think I do. Lou always looked at me differently; I was only twelve years old. Too young to notice at first. All I cared about was singing.

We were dreamers, we were young.

All my mother cared about was a new source of income – I remember how furious she was when I picked the new group over the Mickey Mouse Club. Not that she admitted to it later. Later she claimed she was the one who had a feeling about it instead of me. Part of it was pure luck. I don’t know. It just felt like the right choice at the time. Who knew we’d make it? I didn’t. I remember being happy to see AJ and Howie there, since I knew them somewhat from auditions. Not friends like we made it sound like in the beginning, but we weren’t strangers either.

Once we shifted through members, I remember when Kevin finally came to the group. It still makes me laugh. He took one look at me, this little blonde kid who looked he was eight instead of twelve. I was scrawny and innocent looking. He actually pulled Lou aside and started talking to him about it. No idea what Lou said to convince him to be in a group with a kid eight years younger but he stayed. Driving him crazy became a daily thing. All I wanted was his attention.

All he wanted was for me to leave him alone!

We were just kids.

Man, when Brian joined, it was like he came straight off the farm. His accent was thick as anything I ever heard; he was wearing this funky hat and flannel shirt. I didn’t know what to think about it. At least till we started talking, then he was my best friend for so many years. Man, the first day we all started singing together. It was like the final piece to the puzzle. When we sang together, we knew it was something special. I think that was the first day I really knew we’d make it.

We did make it. We had to tour on one bus from high schools and middle schools. We had to deal with constant booing and people jeering at us. Lou’s treatment of me continued to be creepy till Kevin picked up on it. He was the one who threatened to get the police involved. It wasn’t my mom. My mom said I was “imagining things” even when she witnessed it. I got so mad when she signed Aaron with him. Aaron doesn’t talk about those days. I’m afraid of what he went through, part of me never wants to know. It took a lot, to get here.

Those lessons were hard to learn, but they made us who we are right now.

I keep thinking about our journey here. Like when we discovered NSYNC was there as well. That was probably one of the biggest betrayals we went through. We opened all these doors with our blood, sweat, and tears. In the literal sense sometimes. And they were able to just waltz on through without any problems at all. We fought to leave the label and move to Jive, they followed suit. It was like a game of shadow we couldn’t escape from.

There were so many things that could’ve gone better. Like Brian’s heart surgery. I’m still ashamed of how we acted about that, so many years later. We were all fighting about it, the label and our management was on our asses about staying on tour. None of us knew what to do. When Brian finally stood up to them and did it, we were still too scared. Scared of losing Brian. Scared of the future. Maybe we were all adult age, but really, we were still fresh, new. We were just kids.

Maybe that’s why we handed AJ’s alcoholism the way we did when it first became a problem.

And all the scars and scratches that we shared, remind us that we made it through.

Not all the memories are bad though. I think of some of the pranks we all pulled on each other. Like the infamous poop in the sock Brian and I stashed in our band’s drums. Or how one night on tour Kevin fell asleep so AJ and I wrote “Mr. Body Beautiful” on his chest in permanent marker. Another where Brian and I managed to give AJ his “cat butt” hair that AJ later tried to claim in an interview was his idea. Howie, well, he fell asleep more often we had games about how many things we could put on his face or in his mouth before he finally woke up.

I was the crazy one, nobody could tell me no…

They got me back too. Like when they shoved me in the hallway on one of our early tours in nothing but my tightie-whities. Man there’s a reason none of the Spice Girls saw me as anything but a laugh after that. I learned to wear boxer briefs since, or ya know, go commando. The fellas never have the nerve to pants me after the last time where I ended up flashing them. AJ “forgot” one time to tell the driver I was in the bathroom, then laughed as he watched me chase after the bus on a tour we were doing in Germany. I always got the last laugh though. It’s my job as the youngest.

We were just having fun, that’s the way it was supposed to be.

Despite everything, I wouldn’t change any of it.

Because if I did, would we still be where we are today?

Would I still consider them brothers?

Thinking about these things, suddenly, I knew I had the idea for a song. It was going to be personal – more than fans would realize even as they listened to it. Because I knew all the stories attached to the lyrics that would go unsaid. I knew the fellas would too. With a guitar in my lap and a notepad on the desk, the song practically wrote itself.

I can’t forget the memories, the victories, it’s just a memory in my mind.

And I couldn’t wait for the world to hear it.

Author’s Note – Inspired by a new song performed by Nick at an event in Las Vegas recently. Listen to it Here

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