Saturday, November 22, 2008

if you're a boomer, you remember where you were 45 years ago today

November 22, 1963 was a defining moment for kids growing up in post-war America, a date we recalled to each other for years, and still recall to each other when younger (more employable) people aren't in the room.

Our memories aren't of Warren reports or conspiracy theory, but of how the world a kid took for granted, its safety, its social orders, was shattered in the space of a single afternoon. (As our own kids' vision of world order would be similarly detonated, 38 years later.)

I was in third grade, enduring arithmetic class. Suddenly, Sister Superior burst through the door and whispered something to our teacher, who began to cry. She fumbled in her mysterious robes, pulled out a hankie, and told us the news: the President had been shot, but not killed. Then, schoolbuses magically appeared outside the windows, hours before it was time for dismissal.

When I got home, the television was on, which was unusual in our house during the day. Even more unusual was that all three channels showed the same thing, so that we watched what was previously unthinkable come to pass, not just once, but over and over.

Of the events shown, the one most shocking to me was unseemliness on the part of Jackie, who'd been held up to me as a role model, being the first Catholic First Lady. One minute, she was seated beside her husband, looking proper in her pink pillbox hat, matching coat and white gloves. The next minute, she was clambering across the trunk of a car⎯behavior so inappropriate for a First Lady, not to mention one who was Catholic, that every time the scene was replayed, I half expected she'd do something else, and so was astonished again and again.

3 comments:

Andrew said...

The Kennedy assassination was one of my earliest memories, though it it extremely vague. I was 3 and living in Wakefield, Mass., and I remember all the housewives of our neighborhood in our kitchen/dining rooms with my mother, sobbing about the president's death.

Technically, I think my generation is post-Boomer, pre-Xer -- what is sometimes referred to as Generation Jones (Obama's generation). If you were in third grade 45 years ago, you might technically be in that category, too.

Catnip Intoxicating said...

I was not around in those days. However it is interesting to talk to people who were there. Everyone seems to remember it like it were yesterday.

I think 911 is my generation's JFK. I saw it happen (from a television in NJ).

I met people who were there and the the stories they cold me, put chills down my spin.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

@Andrew Thanks for this enlightening comment. Segmetations I've worked with put boomer birth years 1946-1964. Am I the only one in the business who's never heard of Generation Jones?! Thanks for the link. Certainly aptly describes a segment I've always thought of as younger Boomers. But happy for new evidence I don't make the cut :)

@Catnip Intoxicating Yes, I'm sure 911 is your gen's JFK. Only more so. My daughter was going to her second day of high school in lower Manhattan that morning. She came up from the subway and saw people jumping. She was listening to music on her headphones and the music became a sort of horrible soundtrack. 911 was something she never wanted to talk about (with me, at least) until years later. We were driving and she reached out to skip to the next track on a CD. "I don't want to hear that," she said. "It's what I was listening to that day on the subway."