When John Kennedy was campaigning in California in 1960, I shook his hand when his motorcade passed through Hawthorne, CA near Northrop Corporation where I was working at the time. My first time to vote was for him and I was one of my generation who really believed in Camelot. On the day Kennedy was assassinated, I was folding clothes and watching TV while my 15-month-old son was napping. I was horrified and ran outside weeping and soon our neighborhood was filled with weeping neighbors. I was 24-years-old and I was still such a Pollyanna at that point; that whole four-day ordeal that followed is imprinted in my brain. Coincidentally, my daughter Christina was born the day after Kennedy's assassination, and we adopted her three weeks later.
The following assassinations of Martin Luther King and then Robert Kennedy shocked so many of us to the core, and then there was Viet Nam. Anyone who was an adult, or a young adult during those years carries cellular memories of this era. I personally lost my innocence--or naivete--on the day JFK was assassinated. And year by year ever since it has grown exceedingly more difficult to fully get on board with party politics. In 1965 the Watts Riots scared the daylights out of us. I went to the local gun shop with two babies in the stroller to buy ammunition for my husband's hunting pistol. (Me, who said she was a pacifist.) We moved to a new home in 1966 and only a few months later my husband lost his job. He went back to Northrop but we were in the process of adopting and the agency made us wait until Ray's employment was stable. In 1967 we adopted our son Tony. In 1968 my mom died unexpectedly and in 1969 I suffered my first clinical depression requiring hospitalization. That decade is seered into my memory.
I have never watched any of the films produced about Jack or Robert Kennedy as I couldn't bear to relive all those memories. I have read several biographies of them over the years and of Jackie Kennedy and we quickly found out that Camelot was a smoke screen. Virtually nothing in life really is what it appears to be.
But, in spite of the terrible reviews of the miniseries "The Kennedy's," dropped by pressure from the Kennedy family against the History Channel, it did appear on some unknown channel I don't get. I was intrigued, though, and for the past eight days I have streamed an episode at a time via Netflix on TV.
I thought some of the characters were uncannily cast, particularly Joe Kennedy played by Tom Wilkinson. It was way too sentimental and not really historically factual, but the actual scenes of what was going on at that time interspersed with the actors stirred up a lot of memories I had deeply buried. Now I remember weeping for the safety of my babies when the Cuban Missile Crisis was going on. I actually believed the end of the world might happen. It's going to take me some time to assimilate many incidents I relived this past week that have shaped me.
If you lived through that era, tell me if your memories still haunt you, if you allow them to surface. I still believe all these assassinations are far more complex than we may ever know. I am truly blessed not to have been a mover and shaker in my lifetime. If you don't have memories of that era, what historical memories do you have of your younger years that have affected you today?