Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Kennedy and me

I mentioned in my big announcement about some of the factors that motivated me towards the Peace Corps. Among these, I told about my respect for John Kennedy, the first president I can remember, and specifically my guilt for being upset that his death on Friday (November 22, 1963) pre-empted my normal Saturday morning cartoons (back when only three TV stations were available).

The Peace Corps was started by JFK, and has long been closely associated with him. He even tabbed his brother-in-law Sargent Shriver as the first director of the Peace Corps (ably assisted by Charleston native and former West Virginia legislator Charlie Peters, who is perhaps better known as the founder and editor of “The Washington Monthly” magazine).

Being selected as a Peace Corps volunteer meant that I had to make a lot of changes in 2015. I’m looking forward to retiring from my current position with the government at the end of May, before the Peace Corps sends me to the Caribbean in June. However, an important part of my plan is trying to sell the house I’ve lived in for the past quarter of a century (anyone looking for a house in Parkersburg?). It needed an extensive cleaning as I divested myself of many belongings.

One recent night while I was going through old boxes stored in the basement, I found a folder full of my childhood artwork. My mom had saved them, and at some point after I had purchased my own house, she had given them back to me. They had been buried away in the basement and had not been viewed for decades.

I had always thought I had some artistic talents, but looking at the crudely drawn racing cars, airplanes, frontier forts, etc., I realized that they weren’t nearly as impressive as I had remembered. In fact, it was somewhat embarrassing to see my juvenile drawings. As I hurriedly flipped through the folder, I noticed that one picture had some writing on the back. I backtracked and found a note that my mom had written on the reverse side of a very primitive attempt at an American flag.

The handwritten note read: “Flag David made the day President Kennedy was shot—JFK had not been pronounced dead yet and Dave wanted to send it to him to make him feel better. 5 years old.” It didn’t get sent in the mail to Parkland Hospital in Dallas once the word eventually came that he had died, but Mom decided to save it.

I had forgotten about creating this flag, and was suddenly confronted with physical evidence linking “the childhood me” to that tragic day in American history. I’m glad to have learned what my immediate reaction to the news bulletins had been. It helps to somewhat assuage that long-held guilt about the Saturday morning cartoons.

How ironic it was to find this personal remnant from Kennedy’s time as I prepare to head overseas with his Peace Corps!

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