Monday, November 05, 2012



This week's challenge: Using between 33 and 333 words, compose something that includes the third definition of the following word:


: a calendar year specified usually by a number


My most memorable birthday was in the year 1963. It fell on a Friday. I was in first grade. My teacher's name was Mrs. Kroch. 


In honor of my special day, I got to pass out a carefully selected treat: milk chocolate discs individually wrapped in red and black foil so they looked like lady bugs.

My little celebration was interrupted by the loudspeaker. It wasn't our principal, Miss McCann. It was a scratchy radio broadcast that I couldn't understand. Mrs. Kroch seemed confused and upset and sent a classmate next door to “see if it's true." We kids didn't know what "it" was.

I realize now that, at this point, no one knew JFK was dead, but he had been shot. The teachers conferred in the hall and then we were all sent home – not just for lunch but for the whole day. I don't remember what we were told, but what amazes me about this decades later is that (1) we all walked to and from school, no one got a ride, and (2) the school was confident that we each had a stay-at-home mom who would be there waiting for us.

When I got home, my mom was sitting on the coffee table, staring at the TV and crying. I remember that she was sitting on the table because we got scolded for doing that. I think she wanted to be as close to the TV as possible.

By now everyone knew the President was dead. My mom said she heard the news at the grocery store and was so upset she just left her cart and came home. This was highly significant because it meant I wouldn’t have a birthday cake! Remember, I was six. I barely knew who JFK was, but I sure knew it was my birthday and I wanted cake.

Still, I'd never seen my mother cry like that before so I kept quiet. She was scaring me. There was something very wrong in my world.

About the photo: Life Magazine makes a library of their archive images available for free to use for “non-commercial personal purposes."



  1. This is really powerful. I'm not old enough to have been alive during the assassination, but I do remember being in wood shop class in middle school when 9/11 happened. The school made an announcement that the teachers could turn on the news since "everyone affected by the tragedy" had gone home. Being in the age before instant news flashes via blogs and twitter, no one knew what tragedy had happened until the television was turned on and we saw the towers. )':

    Anyway, I'm trying to say in my normal rambling way that this is a great piece despite the sorrowful tone.

  2. Wow... that's an amazing recollection and I can vividly picture the entire thing....

    (thanks for stopping by my blog... think I'll come back and check yours out again. I like your writing style!)

  3. Anonymous10:15 PM

    Interesting comment you made pointing to how times have changed. Now, kids wouldn't be sent home without a parent to pick them up, and many homes are dual income.

    I wasn't around during the JFK era, but I can imagine the shock was similar to the Challenger (but I was in junior high then - and wasn't expecting a birthday cake that night).

  4. I wasn't quite old enough for school, but the era you've drawn brings back memories.

  5. I wasn't quite old enough for school, but the era you've drawn brings back memories.

  6. I wasn't alive for this, but your story makes me remember who my dad always talks about hearing the announcement over the intercom in his high school English class. He said the repeated it over and over again, like the principal was in shock and just couldn't stop saying it.

    It is scary when you are little and see your parents so obviously upset by something you don't understand.

  7. Anonymous1:12 PM

    Interesting to hear a memory of that event; for whatever reason, that one didn't impress itself on anyone close to me enough for them to have mentioned it in the years since. But at that age, losing a birthday cake is so much more disturbing, wrongful though it seems.

  8. It is amusing, to read your memory of this tragic date from your childhood perspective.

  9. Anonymous12:02 AM

    I was in sixth grade, so enough older to get what was happening-- the whole room, including the teacher, erupted in tears. We too were sent home but all kinds of Moms magically showed up to pick us up. I remember days of crying and fear and wondering if the end of the world would be next (the threat of nuclear war hung heavily over my head in those days). I also so get the point that for someone as young as you were, other things were more important!

  10. Interesting that we each used this as an event for Year - I was 13 - 8th grade - catholic school. The nuns had us all immediately start the rosary. Lots of tears, yes.

    I am sorry about your cake, though. :(

  11. Terrific piece - I love the details, especially the part about your mom leaving her cart and sitting on the table.