Saturday, November 22, 2008


The mind is funny. Does it still know what time it was?

I just remembered what day it is, without any prompting from news stories or blogs, and it is almost exactly the time when I learned of the Kennedy assassination a mere 45 years ago. And I can still see our old kitchen in they yellow light of a fall afternoon (not unlike the light across my yard right this instant) at the moment when I came in the back yard and heard the news from my mother.

No, I will never forget that.

I will never forget how moved she was, since my parents did not vote for JFK or support some of his policies. But he was our President, and we mourned with the rest of the country that day ... and that entire weekend.

The TV was hardly ever off that entire weekend, a detail my students can't really appreciate. I still remember seeing Oswald killed, live on TV, a detail my students find almost unbelievable. What was just an interlude during the funeral coverage became a part of the story and endless conspiracy theories.

And I remember the sound - the distinctive pattern of the drum beat used during the entire funeral procession. That was all we heard for what seemed like hours. There was no commentary (another detail my students find unbelievable). What is it about our aural memory that retains that rhythm, right down to the dramatic pause before it repeats?

We all identified with Jackie and her children, who were just a bit younger than we were. It has been 45 years since there were young children in the White House. (Caroline was just 3 or 4 when JFK was elected.) I don't have to imagine what kids will be thinking about the Obama family and their new dog, since we lived it for 3 years. I just hope the Obama presidency ends on a better note.

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