Monday, November 2, 2009

A Date That Will Live On...

We're coming up to that time when we start to hear about it again. This weeks "Mad Men" centered on it. Last month's Vanity Fair ran an amazing article on the controversy of the book about it. My parent's say it defined their generation. People of a certain age all know where they were when they heard the news: Kennedy was shot. For me, it just reminds me that my birthday is around the corner. I'm an "assassination baby", as I like to call it. Even more odd, my sister is as well. Me November 22, her April 15.

For the longest time, I often thought what that must be like, to have witnessed a great tragedy. To vividly recall where you were, be it in school, at work, or at the grocery; over 40 years ago with crystal clear memory. What must it have been like to live through war? My parents did, and their parents before them. To actively participate in it.

I thought I'd gotten my answer when 9/11 happened. I know exactly where I was: asleep. It was my day off. I was woken by the phone ringing at 830, by my mother telling me to turn on the TV. I barely left the couch all day as I watched the 2nd tower fall, the horrific images taken from the ground. I thought, "This is my JFK", and I remember being sad that I had one now. Only a few years later, the youth of today have no recollection of those events. Kenned is someone they (may) hear about in school, and 9/11 is something their parents talk about. It's an unfamiliar reference on a sitcom. It interrupts their regularly scheduled programming once a year. How nice it must be to forget, or to have been so young as to have no memory of such tragedy. How sad that they will surely gain one of their own before their lives are spent.

When I think about my birthday, I think how inappropriate a theme party would be. Then, I think about "House of Yes" and I laugh. Then, sometimes, I'm embarrassed.

We don;'t live in "troubled times", time is simply troubled. For as long as we've been keeping history, unforeseen circumstances and horrific events have taken place. In England, they're dulling and confiscating kitchen knives in an attempt to curb violent crime. They want to register cricket bats as well. We register guns and gun owners. We get ticketed for crossing the street at the wrong juncture, or for incorrectly paying to park out car on the street.

What's the point? Try as we might, as long as there is something we want but cannot have, there will always be war. Unstable people will act out violently. (OH, I know! Let's cut the budget for state run mental programs and facilities, and allow insurance companies not to cover treatment, inpatient or out, as well! That'll solve the problem.)

I think I'm rambling again. I've always romanticized the 40's. I love the women in their trousers and the men with their smart haircuts. The one thing that consistently stands out to me are the photos of women doing their part for the war effort. My father's mother was a welder. She built shell and bomb casings. My mother's mother was a nurse. There's a great photo of her in her Army uniform standing with my grandfather in his. She looks just like my mother who looks just like my sister, it's eerie. I envy them this. I want to strap on my shoes, walk to town, and get dirty. I want wool skirts and sweaters and lunch in a tin. I want the feeling that I must help, that I must do something, anything. I want real problems. I want to make my own story to tell. I want to grow up.

Assassination babies... Maybe we're destined to try to live up to a history we weren't even a part of. So much worse and obscure than holiday babies. We don't stand for joy or yuletide greetings. We have to explain; November 22, April 14/15, July 2, September 6/14. Dates that mean nothing to you unless you were there or had the misfortune of being born on them.


  1. I'm a domestic terrorism baby, born hot on the heels of the FLQ crisis here in Canada, seperatists were blowing things up and killing politicians and my military father was flying air ops over Quebec.

    Can't help but think of the old curse: May you live in interesting times.

  2. I'm an assassination baby, too. Nicolae Ciaucescu was assassinated and dragged through the streets of Bucharest on my 14th birthday.

    And you're exactly right about that whole "troubled times" thing. Find a period in history that wasn't troubled or "exciting" as the Chinese curse goes and you'll be doing well for yourself.

  3. I remember that day all too well; the gentle breeze rolling through Dealey Plaza, the itch of the grassy knoll on my stomach... ah, good times.