Friday, November 22, 2013
Asking “Where were you when--?” is an age-revealer. “Where were you when ‘Challenger’ exploded?” “Where were you when you heard Elvis had died?” And this week, most of all, “Where were you when JFK was assassinated?”
Just as it is this year, in 1963 the 22nd of November was on a Friday, with Thanksgiving on the 28th.
I was in sixth grade. Someone came to the door of our classroom and spoke to the teacher in a low voice; she turned and announced that the President had been shot in Dallas, with no further news available. Perhaps ten minutes later, the principal came on over the loudspeaker to tell us President Kennedy was dead.
We were sent home earlier than usual that day, and when the funeral was scheduled for Monday it seemed as though everything closed: we had no school, and my father’s employer closed as well, giving him an unexpected day off.
My family spent the weekend watching television - unheard of in our house - and I’m not sure but what my parents practically slept in the living room. If the coverage wasn’t round-the-clock, it was close.
My brother and I asked if we could all go to Washington to see the funeral; we lived maybe some forty miles northwest of DC. Dad said it wouldn’t be worth it, as the tremendous crowds sure to turn up would mean we wouldn’t be able to see anything, that we’d have a better view with the TV broadcast.
He was right. While he had a genuine appreciation of history, and an awareness that this was history in the making, he also recognized that "modern technology" was a tool to be used. Watching on television took none of the immediacy away, and if anything probably enabled me to see the funeral live in its entirety, rather than only a glimpse of what might pass directly in front of us. And indeed, the scenes from that day have stayed in my memory for these fifty years.
Because we didn’t go to the funeral my father earmarked the Friday following Thanksgiving for a trip to Arlington National Cemetery. Dad said that we could pay our respects, and also get a sense of being part of the history, the drama, of the event.
So the Friday after Thanksgiving, one week after Kennedy’s assassination, we drove to Washington.
We had to park some distance from Arlington’s gates, as there were no cars permitted on the grounds, at least on that day. The weather was clear, chilly but not freezing cold, as I recall. The crowds pretty much filled the walkways from side to side, perhaps four or five people abreast, and the line stretched… well, I’m not sure how far. Almost to the gates, maybe. We were near the end of the line when I turned and took this photograph:
I’m not sure how well this picture will turn out, but I think you’ll be able to see the cars parked at the bottom - they were DC police, stationed there to make sure no one drove into the cemetery, I suppose. And you may be able to see the groups of people making their way up to the gates.
The Kennedy gravesite looked very different then, of course. Although the eternal flame had been lit - and I don’t think it’s visible in any of my pictures, as the black-and-white film doesn’t really show it up - there was no stonework, no engravings, no markers. All of that came later.
There were posts with ropes to indicate the path to follow and a picket fence around JFK’s grave - I don’t believe either of the children had been moved there yet, and obviously this was years before Bobby Kennedy’s death.
The gravesite was knee-deep in flowers with masses of them also laid out on the rise of the hill, above the grave:
In this next one, you can see some of the crowds of people as they moved past the gravesite. You see what I mean about the posts - movable stanchions - with ropes strung between them. There were honor guardsmen, perhaps from the same detail as those who patrol the Tomb of the Unknowns:
As much as anything it was the silence that impressed me. I don’t remember hearing a sound. I suppose there must have been murmured conversations, a cough, the click of a camera, perhaps some whispers. I remember only the immensity of the silence. So many people - so little sound.
I found the next photo on the internet, with no credit given. It was taken after the posts had become permanent, with chains instead of ropes, but still looks to be before the Kennedy babies were interred beside their father. If the picket fence was temporary early on, it appears to have become more solid by this point:
This photo is after the children’s bodies had been moved to either side of the president’s:
I think the following - which clearly shows the eternal flame’s point as well as at least two of the name-plaques on the gravesite - is a picture taken relatively early in the stone remodelling of the site, as there is more extensive stonework now, I believe:
I haven’t been there in a few years. Each time I go, it seems they’ve added something new. It’s a beautiful site, with an incredible view over the city.
None of my subsequent visits has had the impact, though, of that first one. Dad was right. He knew it would make an indelible impression, of the time, the era, of that very moment when the world changed.
Friday, August 16, 2013
...you see where my blog-daily / good intentions got me. Hah.
I was prompted to blog today by this:
When life pelts you with lemons ©
When life throws you lemons, it’s expedient and fun to say “I’ll make lemonade” or “Bring out the tequila!” but what do you do when life pelts you with lemons, and it’s not a joke?
1. Stay calm.
2. Take a deep breath.
3. Try not to over-react.
4. Take one step back, mentally, from the lemon.
5. Remain calm, look at what the lemon is and what it is not.
Often, when “bad” stuff is suddenly thrown at us – whether it’s expected, unexpected, of our own doing, or not – our knee-jerk response is to panic, freak out, freeze (which is probably natural). Our brain ceases to function, our heart rate increases, and we can’t think straight. It feels as if the floor and the ceiling have collapse on top of us and beneath us, and we can be enveloped in darkness.
We are human, it is natural for most of us to have this kind of reaction, even though some people seem able to deal with life’s shocks without experiencing any discomfort. I’m not really one of those, and perhaps neither are you.
Regardless of what life throws at us, it is important to stay calm, take a deep breath, try not to over-react, take one step back, and try to assess what it’s all about. Have a cup of chamomile, drink some water, take a step back, detach as much as possible, allow your heart rate to return to normal, and the dryness in your throat to subside.
And then look at the lemon again. It won’t suddenly have disappeared or changed severity or intensity, but through less fearful eyes, and with a calmer, clearer mind, we can get through that initial moment of panic and mental crisis.
Then we can slice the lemon into bite-sized chunks, and deal with each chunk one at a time – what is this thing, what do we need to do, who do we know who can help us …..
And then we need to do our best to stay in the present and not fill our heads and our hearts with thoughts and words of worry about some future event, or how the present lemon can affect everything else. Deal with the lemon, as calmly as possible, stand in your own personal power. For the religious and spiritual among us, reach for your anchor and ask for help. Sometimes there’s more help out there than we can even imagine.
By Beba Papakyriakou (BA; BA Hons (Psych)
© Reproduce freely as is but retain copyright.
* * *
It's an excerpt from Zalome's newsletter "Thoughts." I've written about her before. If you'd like to know more about her, or subscribe to her newsletter, the link is:
You might have to look around to find the clickable link; I've been a subscriber of hers since... well, almost since I've been on the 'net, really. Probably about 15 years now. Hers is the oldest continuous e-subscription I have.
That's it for this morning, peeps. If Life hands you lemons - now you know what to do, lol. Have a good'un, Sparklers - carpe diem!
Sunday, July 07, 2013
Sing wi'me now: "Kale! glorious kale!Tas-ty and nonfattening--!..."
I discovered (as if it was lost) kale last year, thanks to one of my cousins. We have it at least once a week at our house now. I haven't ventured so far as to do the kale-chip thing, but steamed, I admit it, it really is delicious and a welcome addition to our meal plan.
Have a good'un, Sparklers - carpe diem!
Monday, July 01, 2013
An odd fact in my family history: I know precisely where my great-great-grandfather was one hundred years ago today.
On the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd of July, 1913, the US government sponsored a "Civil War Veterans Reunion," on the grounds of Gettysburg National Battlefield. All veterans from both sides were invited.
These now-old men stayed in huge barracks tents and spent three days attending staged events, participating in (carefully planned!) re-enactments, and most of all, meeting up with their former comrades-in-arms.
As it happens, my GG-Grandfather never lost touch with the survivors from his unit: they all came from the same small area in upstate New York. Most of them were farmboys, with a few - the son of the general store owner, a schoolteacher, the son of the local doctor - other fields represented.
They came of age late in the war, and most of them came home again, though not all of them unscathed. Two of GG-Grampa's best friends had each lost a leg. He himself was shot somewhere in his abdomen, a wound which troubled him the rest of his life.
That they were more fortunate than so many of their fellow soldiers is without question - and they paid homage to those who'd made the greatest sacrifice while at the great reunion.
My family has a few photos taken over the course of those three days in 1913. The only copy I've come up with is this one:
Great-great-grampa is in the back left of these four men - he's the one in the straw boater. These four had grown up together and remained friends their entire lives; I suspect when the announcement was made of the grand reunion, they knew it was an opportunity not to be missed.
So a curious fact: yes, I happen to know where the old man was one hundred years ago today...
Have a good'un, Sparklers - carpe diem!
Friday, June 21, 2013
Cribbed that from the-source-of-all-things-cribbable, Wikipedia.
No, I didn't get to Stonehenge this morning: I keep saying one of these years I will, and I'll wear a diaphanous gown and sandals and have flowers in my (what's left of it) hair and... well. That year is not this year, but it's on the list, so there's always hope.
One year I'm going to spend Midsummer's Eve in Scandinavia, go to a festival, dance in a field at midnight - but I think I'll give the fire-walking a miss. Too old for that, methinks. Never too old for flowers in my hair, though.
Have a good'un, Sparklers - carpe diem!
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