November 22, 1963 began as just a regular day. It was a Friday. I think there was supposed to be a dance that night but I might be wrong about that. I remember exactly where I was when the voice came over the loudspeaker and announced that the President had died. Mr. Richard’s math class. I remember Mr. Richards was a talkative man with a wry sense of humor. I liked him. That day he didn’t say a word. Neither did any of us. I think we were told to leave the classrooms and go directly to our buses and go home. I remember people crying ~maybe one of them was me. I remember it was quiet…very, very quiet. So much changed that Friday. On this Friday it’s very hard to believe that was fifty years ago. Our lives have gone in so many different directions, both figuratively and literally. We’ve each experienced ups, downs and all those dips on the roller coaster we call life. But I am certain we each have our memory of that day and the days that followed.
My peers and I grew up during the era of air raid drills, duck and cover, basement bomb shelters and the threat of nuclear war. We also grew up during a pretty wonderful, innocent time on the beautiful North Shore of Long Island. We played kickball in our neighborhoods and we loved summer because it meant lightening bugs, baby oil and iodine at Stehli’s Beach and Ben the Good Humor Man. We had Shu Swamp and Beaver Dam as our playgrounds. That nuclear war wouldn’t really happen but there would always be burgers at the Pig and pizza at Ralphs. But everything changed on that November day. We learned that really terrible things did happen and there wouldn’t ever be much we could do to change that fact. Our country changed dramatically over the next years. It became a much more turbulent time and as we went off to college and began living our lives I don’t think any of us gave much thought as to where we’d be on November 22, 2013.
It’s been an interesting half century as I’m certain most of us would say about our lives. Many of us stayed close to our idyllic home town and many of us left. While I moved to Los Angeles at 21 and remained in place for many years, it has been a trip outside my comfort zone to move as much as we have over the past seven years. But I’ve enjoyed each place. I like to think of myself as relatively stable although some might disagree with that description. My husband for one as each move brings out the schizophrenic side. Our recent move to San Diego was no exception. Yes, I was happy we were leaving LA. But no, I don’t want to move…again. I so wished I was Elizabeth Montgomery on “Bewitched” where it could all be over with the twitch of a nose. The stability I refer to is the fact that in my personal world a house is a “home.” I am a Cancer…a nester. Throw in a dash of ADD and obsessive disorder about the need for things to be in their place and well, you get the picture. You saw the pictures ~ my need to unpack and get settled was greater than my exhaustion. A shrink would have a field day with said needs ~ and has. I am living proof that mental health can be purchased.
I’ve enjoyed each place we’ve lived, but then we’ve lived in pretty exceptional cities. First stop was Mercer Island, Washington, just across the floating bridge from downtown Seattle. It was without question an amazingly stunning place geographically. Huge evergreen trees, mountains with snowcapped ridges and water everywhere. My husband is in radio. Jay started as Program Director at the station KBSG in March while I stayed behind to finish up my job as Executive Director of The Wellness Community in Santa Monica and sell our house in Tarzana. He’d say things like “it’s still a little light at 8:30.” Something I would clearly remember in the dead of winter when it was pitch black at both 8AM and 3PM. We did not look at Seattle on the map and Seattle has a way of fooling you with its weather. Just when you think you can’t stand another minute of the gray the sun comes out and you know this is the best place on earth. Then the lights go out on Labor Day. That winter it snowed in Seattle for the first time in many years. But first there was a wind storm. A very large wind storm. During the beginning of said windstorm I realized the floating bridge swayed. I clearly remember saying The Lord’s Prayer out loud as I drove over it on my way home from work. Late that night I’m told I slept through what sounded like a freight train about to drive through the house when the brunt of the storm hit. It knocked over trees and knocked out the electricity on Mercer Island for six days. Six days…in December. The temperature in our bedroom was 36 degrees. We dragged a mattress into the family room with the gas pot belly stove/fireplace mattress, cooked on our gas BBQ and waited it out with our three dogs. When I saw the light in the dryer come on I cried. Jay said he’d never seen me so happy to see an appliance working. I met some wonderful people at Special Olympics Washington and discovered Beecher’s mac and cheese during our year in Seattle.
Next stop, San Francisco. Jay is from the Bay Area and his beloved KFRC was going back on the air. We sold the house on Mercer Island in a day and moved to Marin. We were a half hour from the city and a half hour from Napa. Truly God’s country. Turkeys and deer came down from the hills to our front yard and drove Riley O’Riley absolutely crazy. Jay commuted to the City, I worked in suicide prevention and then at KFWB, a community radio station in Pt Reyes. I had the best commute to work ever as I stopped to talk to cows on a regular basis. There was one ~ #167 ~ who I swear to this day recognized me. I do not like thinking about what the number 167 meant. What gorgeous country! And Cowgirl Creamery…Point Reyes blue cheese…OMG. It was heaven…until the day KFRC “flipped” without notice. The world of radio had changed dramatically over the years. Let’s just say deregulation, the internet and Satellite radio has taken its’ toll on the industry and let it go at that.
Back to Los Angeles. Will Smith and his wife started a school. New Village Leadership Academy and I worked there as Development Director. Jaden Smith and I share a birthday. I wish we shared his bank account. There’s more to the LA story and I will say each move brought great new people into my life. You can never know enough great people, right? But I can also say people grow frustrated at continually having to white out our address and phone number. Imagine if you had to pack and unpack all those boxes?
And now we’re in San Diego. North County. I’ve been able to reach out to many old friends and new. The internet surely isn’t all bad. It has helped so many of us re-connect. I love the fact that every day I can see what my friends are doing. Friends I haven’t seen in decades. Today we’re all thinking about the same thing … the 50th Anniversary of JFK’s death. Anniversary is a word I think of for celebrations and there is nothing to celebrate about that day. But I do celebrate the fact that so many of us are still around and still in contact, albeit virtually.
Tomorrow I will see a high school classmate. Annie Durkin and I haven’t seen each other since we graduated from Locust Valley High School. We were in different classrooms but Annie and I heard the same horrible news at the same time fifty years ago.
What are the odds we’d be in the same place at the same time fifty years later?
Many things come full circle and for that I am grateful.