Me in the Middle of an Ordinary Day

** Note:  This is my story.  My memory of where I was when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated is something I wanted to write about.  This is my attempt at telling it in third person POV and I’ve since written it in first person POV.  **

********************

John Kennedy Family, Jacqueline

********************

~ An Ordinary Day ~

It was November and an ordinary week day with not much planned except for household chores and getting ready for the upcoming holidays.  Nora’s husband had left for work leaving her with a pile of ironing to do.  She liked to set up the ironing board in the living room, facing the large bay window, so she could look out on the neighborhood.  It had been a quiet morning where she took things easy considering her pregnancy was drawing to an end and she was slowed down quite a bit.

Waiting wasn’t easy!  Over the past year she had had two miscarriages and this was her 3rd pregnancy.  All seemed to be progressing well and 22-year-old Nora could feel the lively kicks and bumps in this last stage before birth.  Her doctor wasn’t sure of an exact delivery date.  He told her to have her bag packed and ready for a trip to the hospital sometime during the holidays.

Her mind was preoccupied with these thoughts when her attention was abruptly drawn to the TV in the corner of the room.  The monotonous conversations of the scheduled show were suddenly interrupted by a brief, alarming announcement. 

“Here is a bulletin from CBS News.  In Dallas, Texas three shots were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade in downtown Dallas.  The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting.”

The announcement came and went so quickly that it almost seemed inconceivable that what Nora heard really happened.  She continued with the ironing and reflected on the memories she had of JFK over the past three years.  Her first stirrings of political awareness showed up when she went to a campaign rally at the Teaneck Armory in NJ for John F. Kennedy, who was running for President against Richard M. Nixon.  Standing outside in the massive crowd waiting for him to arrive, she and her sister came up with a chant; “Jack be nimble. Jack be quick.  Jack’s the one who’s gonna beat Dick.”  Her family was proud of the Democratic Party that was working towards electing the first Catholic President.

Both JFK and his wife, Jackie, were an inspiration for her and both gave her hope.  She felt like she knew Jackie Kennedy personally when they each went through the heartaches of miscarriages and loss.   Jackie gave her hope that one day she too would become a mother, just as her husband gave her hope that we as a country could overcome our divisions and adversities, and become greater still.

Did she really hear what she thought she heard?  The report said ‘seriously wounded’.  A feeling of dread washed over her as she thought of the possibility that the president would die.  And then it came up on the screen:

“From Dallas, Texas ~ The flash apparently official ~ President Kennedy died at 1 pm Central Standard Time (2 o’clock Eastern Standard Time), some 28 minutes ago.”

There it was!  There was no denying the finality of those words.  She felt a bolt of shock pulse through her as the seriousness of what it meant sunk in.  Suddenly she felt very fearful and very much alone.  She needed to reach out to someone and dropped everything she was doing.  Nora hurried down the stairs of their 2nd floor apartment to the landlady’s apartment below.  She was relieved that she found her at home and, as soon as the door opened, she began to tremble and cry.  For the first time she said the words that she couldn’t believe:

“President Kennedy’s dead!  He was shot!”

Her landlady, who was expecting her third child, was an experienced mom who always had everything under control.  She tried to calm Nora down.  “You’ve got to think of your baby right now.  It’s important that you stay calm.”  She counseled her.  They both stood there silently and continued to watch the startling news reports as more information trickled in.

It was two days later that she watched a live report of the Dallas Police bringing Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy, through the garage of the police station on the way to a more secure county facility.  There was a lot of confusion and shouting as they walked through the crowd of reporters.  She saw a man quickly approach Oswald and immediately saw a pained expression appear on Oswald’s face.  It happened so quickly there was no way to prevent it.  Nora was watching real life unfold, realizing that it was the first time she was witnessing a man being murdered.   Another urgent announcement followed that Oswald had been shot and killed by a local business man in Texas, Jack Ruby. 

Life changed for America on November 22nd, 1963 and when she stood in stunned silence watching more news unfold over the following days, Nora saw images of Jackie Kennedy, her daughter Caroline and her small son, John-John, standing by the roadside as the fallen president’s casket passed by.  An ordinary day became a tragedy and the whole world mourned the death of our president.

The weeks passed by and the country began to take steps to bring order and safety as more information was released.  The grieving and healing would begin across the country and the world. 

So too, the weeks passed by for Nora with no sign of the beginnings of labor indicating the arrival of their first born.  Christmas 1963 and New Year’s Day 1964 came and went.  The doctor reassured her that all was well and not to worry.  The previous miscarriage had made it impossible to pinpoint a due date, and the baby’s weight and progress were on target for an imminent birth.  They continued to wait ~ one day at a time ~ and then on January 22nd, 1964, exactly two months to the day of JFK’s assassination, a baby boy arrived healthy and welcomed into the family.  An ordinary day in the lives of so many others yet a cherished one for Nora.

And now, years have passed by filled with historic moments that have impacted the people of America in so many ways.  That one ordinary day, 54 years ago, continues to haunt Nora  as a reminder of  vulnerability that always lies beneath the surface.  Just as 9/11 sliced into the heart and soul of the country, so to 11/22/63 will remain a reminder that the perfect idealism of ‘Camelot’ can be shattered within one ordinary day.

11-22-63 

Sketch and writing © Mary Lou

Photo image from Pixabay.com

 

 

 

Me in the Middle ~ 9/11 Poem

september-11-fireman

Pixabay

I discovered a poem I wrote on September 22, 2001 so I thought I’d share it:

*********************

~ THEY HAVE NOT DIED IN VAIN ~

If we see life a bit clearer and appreciate its beauty
and glory alongside its horror and sorrow ~
They have not died in vain.

If we’ve reached out to those we love and
opened our hearts a bit more in trust ~
They have not died in vain.

If we’ve learned beyond a doubt that politics and religion
can be dividers of people as well as reconcilers of people ~
They have not died in vain

If we now know that God’s grace and love resides in the
hearts of individuals regardless of race, creed or country ~
They have not died in vain.

Freedom or fear; Love or fear; Courage or fear ~
Everyday battles fought in everyday lives.

If we can believe that the way we live our lives;
The way we treat each other;
And the way we respond to hatred and evil
will bring about change in this world ~
Then they have not died in vain.

~ Mary Lou Quinn ~

(Dedicated to the Victims and Families of September 11, 2001)

sept-11

Photo by Thomas E. Franklin, The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Me in the Middle of the Undertow

Three photos that I’d found in a big box full of old family photos sparked a memory long forgotten.  They were found while my siblings and I were cleaning out the attic after both of our parents had died.  I wanted to try to write about that memory in third person voice.  I gave my four-year-old self the name Nora.

*******************

              Undertow       

The surf pounded with a roaring intensity and the huge waves rolled in one after another. 

They all stood together, four-year-old Nora, her father and her two older brothers.  Standing there, with the water waist high, she could feel the sand travel through her toes as it ebbed and flowed with the undertow.  Her brothers were leaping over each wave and fearlessly plunging into the larger ones that rolled towards them.  They were having fun … and she was frightened!  She struggled to maintain her balance and held tightly to her father’s hand

I want to go back to the beach!”  she yelled over the roaring surf.

No! Stay here!” he shouted back.  “You’ll be fine!”  

Nora hesitantly pulled her hand out of his and let go.  As she started heading back to the beach where her mother was, she heard her father call to her.  “Go ahead then!  You’ll have to make it back on your own.”

The waves and the undercurrent were stronger than she anticipated and she found herself being knocked off balance.  It was too late to turn back and she was determined to get back to the safety of the beach.

Suddenly she plunged into a deep hole that had been created by the undertow.  Instantly, she lost her footing and couldn’t find the ocean floor to stand back up again.  She thrashed about, feeling a sense of panic.  It was hard for her to tell where the top of the water was.  When she opened her eyes all that she could see was the murky salt water and the long pieces of her hair floating around her.  It seemed like she floated there for a while and she didn’t fight it.  A strange sense of calm came over her.

Then, in an instant, she was scooped out of the water by strong arms.  It was her father and he took her by the hand to lead her over to the blanket on the beach.  He seemed upset with her as she gasped and cried.  

Shaking and shivering as her mother put a towel around her, Nora was relieved that she was safe again.  Once she had dried her off, her mother gave her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and lead her over to a towel that was laid out on the sand.  There she sat eating and thinking about what had just happened to her in the ocean.  

As she gazed out at the vastness of the sea and the power that she had just experienced, Nora felt the warmth of the sun and listened to the sounds of the people enjoying the ocean.   Little did she understand that the ocean had taught her an important lesson that day.

Today, Nora has come to love the ocean and is humbled by the power and force behind it.  The ocean taught her about the ebb and flow of life and finding her balance in the middle ground.

Me in the Middle of Summer Reading

 

i-will-not-die-an-unlived-life-col

First Book

This poem moved me so deeply that I followed up with a Google search and found that Dawna Markova had written a  book by the same title.  “Why are we here?” is the question she asks both herself and the reader of this wonderful book ~ I WILL NOT DIE AN UNLIVED LIFE ~.  It’s written while Dawna is on a retreat to solitude in a cabin far away from the hectic pace of modern life.  Her story travels along different paths than mine has and that’s the whole point of her book.  We’re here to follow our own passion and dreams.

“Anyone on a spiritual quest, seeking to discover their own deep wisdom, and uncover their “calling” will be enriched and energized in a powerful and gentle way……”

(Forward)

“Like the rest of the natural world, human beings go through seasons.  At one point, we are in the full bloom of summer, harvesting, committed, in abundance.  Then, naturally there is an autumnal time of falling away, disillusionment, stagnation, a shedding of what has been used up.  Then must come the fallowness and dormancy of winter, death, rest.  Eventually, as is happening right outside the window of this cabin, there is a great melting into muck and mud, which, if one can persevere, opens naturally into an abundant yellow-green time, when everything is possible and horizons open.”

~ Dawna Markova ~

“In a similar way to A Gift from the Sea, the readers of this book (I Will Not Live An Unlived Life) are invited to accompany me on a journey to come to know more intimately the value and purpose of their lives.”

~ Dawna Markova ~

*******************************************

Men, Women and Happiness Cropped (2)

Ink Sketch and Watercolor by Mary Lou Q

Second Book

Gift from the Sea #3

Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s bookGIFT FROM THE SEA ~ was shared with me by my mother back in the 90’s.  I packed myself a lunch and took a ride to the beach, setting up my chair in front of the ocean.  It was a restful day that I needed badly and I hoped to find nuggets of wisdom and truth from this book.  At the time it was difficult for me to concentrate on it.  I kept thinking ‘How can this wealthy woman whose life is so different than mine even relate to what I’m experiencing?’  It’s only been down through the years and coming across Anne’s various quotes from her book that I’ve decided to read it again.  Dawna Markova read it to inspire her book ‘I Will Not Live An Unlived Life’ and I decided to read them both this summer.

********************

anne-morrow-lindbergh-quotes-3

The Introduction to the Fiftieth Anniversary Edition of Gift from the Sea (2005)  is written by Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s daughter, Reeve Lindbergh:

“I read Gift from the Sea at all Seasons of the Year and of my life.  I never once had the sense that my mother’s 1955 book has lost its freshness, or that the wisdom contained within its pages has ceased to apply, whether to my own life or to what I’ve learned , overtime, about hers.”

“Above all, I think, Gift from the Sea offers its readers an unusual kind of freedom.  It is hard to recognize, or even to describe, but I think this freedom is the real reason this book continues to be so well loved and so well read after all these years.  I am talking about the freedom that comes from choosing to remain open, as my mother did, to life itself, whatever it may bring:  Joys, sorrows, triumphs, failures, suffering, comfort and, certainly, always, change.”

Thanks, Mom!  I get it!  

********************

A Gift from the Sea

********************

Third Book

Francis Friendship

Francis Mandewah is one of my Guest Bloggers

Me in the Middle introducing Guest Blogger ~ Francis

I was so inspired by what Francis wrote in his guest blog that I bought his book on Amazon Kindle and I’ve just begun reading it.  His story begins with his life as a 15 year old young man in the African country of Sierra Leone and in the heart of the African diamond zone.  His story too is a spiritual journey of trust in goodness in the world in spite of the hardships and realities that might come along.  It’s his trust in this goodness that makes it possible for Francis to be fully present when God opens a door in his life that leads him to the path of his dreams.

“As I chronicled my trials and tribulations I discovered my voice in between the lines of my story ~ a voice that was filled with faith.”

~ Francis Mandewah ~

“I suppose this dream has been the script for my life, because even as I sit, no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I always feel a tinge of uncertainty, as if I’m eternally looking for a flight itinerary. I have lived a life filled with the adventure of being ushered onto stage and the turmoil of being blindfolded and locked in a cage. Through my travels, my willingness to walk to and through the door, I discovered within myself a will to not just survive, but to thrive, no matter the circumstance.”

Blood Diamond ~ Sierra Leone

“There are people who are kind, and people who are not kind, among all races and cultures. It was a White man who gave me opportunity so I could realize the American dream.  Our friendship transcended race, and built a positive connection between the races. We can overcome racism through friendship and positive cross-cultural relationships.  “

 

Writing as Self-Indulgence: Is Publishing Really Necessary?

Thank you Lynette Benton! I’m grateful that you submitted this to Brevity. So many of us who love writing and have benefited in so many ways had our thoughts validated by what you wrote. This line made me laugh out loud : “In any case, my memoirs aren’t going to make me famous, unless it’s through lawsuits.” 😀

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

zz lynette bentonBy Lynette Benton

Many writers, perhaps most, believe that publication of their books would represent a badge of accomplishment and acceptance, an event that would bring them fame, catapult their lives into new and desirable directions, or at least validate the talent, time, and energy they invested in their manuscripts. Rejections of their work by agents and publishers can have a shattering effect upon them. I point out to them that the publishing world’s misjudgments are legion; note the many rejections of Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, which went on to best sellerdom and box office success; Tinkers, by Paul Harding, the 2010 Pulitzer Prize fiction winner, which the big publishing houses declined; the 22 rejections for Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, the 12 for Harry Potter. Sometimes the letters accompanying the rejections even contained snarky comments about the writer, the manuscript, or both.

Though I sympathize with their…

View original post 870 more words