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  The Chatter Box : Blathering On
JFK Another Essay. by tucsonmike on 16 December 2010 11:46pm
Fifty years ago today I was thirteen, which because I skipped a grade, puts me somewhere at Ponce de Leon Junior High. (They call them middle schools today but the reality is probably the same...you're kind of not a kid anymore and you're dealing with heavy-duty issues like periods and pimples but you still don't have a clue and whatever you're doing isn't good enough for high school even though you're blissfully too young to know that yet).

Anyway, that's where I was when John F Kennedy ran for president. As I recall, I wasn't all that involved. (My mind was probably more focused on Steve Brody who used to come over to my house and play these great pieces on the piano....)

I sure as heck wasn't thinking about presidents. I was born when Truman was president but I was well into my forties before I even began to look into the legacy that man left. Even today if you gave me a word association test and said president: I would answer Eisenhower. I grew up with the balding, WWII hero, grandfatherly figure with the reassuring smile that everyone "liked". Nothing wrong with that or him when you were a kid!!! I honestly don't think I even noticed who was vice-president although as anyone my age is already guessing, "tricky-dick" was hiding in the shadows of my youth ready to pop out when I least expected it!

Okay, it's 1960 and I'm on the precipice of high school, maybe even riding a superficial wave at good old Ponce and JFK beats Nixon. Honestly, I'm not sure I even cared. What I remember most were personal memories when my father was president elect of the Orange Bowl and then president and Kennedy came down for the games. By that time I'd moved on to Gables High School, (fight right down that field...). I had other things on my mind.

That was probably true that November day in 1963 when I sat in Joan Rietzma's political science class. We were seated alphabetically so in the first row it was Maria Alvarez, me, Steve Brody (remember him?) and Bob Brown. On the wall to our left was a photograph of President John F Kennedy that I'm certain nobody in the room was paying any attention to that day. It was sort of a contentious time at Coral Gables Senior High. After the Bay of Pigs our halls were filled with a number of contemporaries suddenly dropped in our midst from Cuba, most of which didn't speak English very well and who most probably as we were, were uncomfortable and unsure of how to react to each other. (In the Gidget world in which most of us were raised being pinched on the behind by the Cuban boys as we changed classes was not something we easily adjusted to.)

November 22, 1963 was the day our Principal Norton came on the PA system and announced that President Kennedy was shot. In front of me Maria Alvarez sprang from her seat and spat on the picture of the president and said, "Good, I hope he dies." Behind me like some kind of a missile Steve Brody slammed into her and Bob Brown found his feet and managed to pull Steve off of her. They rolled around for a while and that's all I remember before I got home. There was no sadness in my house although looking back I wish there had been. There was no right of passage even if deep in my heart I think I knew even then that this country had passed a milestone.

Looking back on all of it now I feel almost robbed of the history. Of course I watched the images we'll never forget of LBJ taking the oath, of the funeral and John-John saluting his dead father, but I was a long way from understanding what it meant. It took years, many of which living in Washington, to get to that place. I'm glad to say I finally believe I'm looking back on all of it with a reflection that might only come from age.

So if this is the anniversary of the election of John F Kennedy that started it all maybe we should all look back and forward at the same time. What happened after November of 1960?
-we know that not only Jackie Kennedy (Onassis) but JFK junior are no longer with us; that Caroline has lived a more than admirable life as a wife and mother and has promise as a possible political candidate in the future
-Bobby Kennedy was assassinated and buried near the eternal flame that marks his brother's grave at Arlington, RIP Bobby.
-Ted Kennedy, in spite of his past, managed to live out his life as a respected member of Congress and when he died he rightfully earned the grief of many and left a legacy still to be seen.
-Maria Shriver (Swartzenagger), possibly the best of the bunch, still has a lot to teach us.
-Patrick, (D-Rhode Island) retired this year making 2011 the first time since the year I was born that there won't be a Kennedy in Congress.

What does that say about fifty years ago? Frankly it makes me feel old and reminds me that as our own lives evolve we seldom see how it reflects history until we've been given enough time to put perspective on it.

What was I doing on November 9th, 1960? I haven't got a friggin clue but I hope it was a good day because in the long run I think we were lucky to have JFK as long as he lasted and I'm glad to take this time to think back on him.

Re: JFK Another Essay. by Loretto on 21 December 2010 12:51pm
Wow! Mike, I think this is fantastic. I also think there's a great short story or even a novelette about Maria Alvarez in here too! I never imagined there were people who celebrated Kennedy's death.
Re: JFK Another Essay. by mrsteabag on 21 December 2010 5:19pm
Good job, Mike...thanks.

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