This Fall I’ve been taking another OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UVA) class ~ Creative Writing for Dabblers. There are twelve of us and we read our work to each other and offer critique. This is the first time I’ve done this and I’m getting a lot of value out of it.
On November 10th I posted what I wrote for reading to the class and this week I’m posting the changes I’ve made based on what the other writers in the group suggested. This is the link to the original post ~ An Ordinary Day ~ JFK
The new post, with the changes I made since last Friday, is below:
~ 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 a veteran 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.
Sketch and writing © Mary Lou
Photo image from Pixabay.com