The Day The President Died

The skies were cloudy and it was cold. 

My feet slipped on cold floors.

My mother was dressing my baby sister and reminded me to bundle up for school later in the morning.

In the meantime, would I like to watch cartoons?

Why yes I would. 

Can I put a blanket on the floor? Can I put it over the heater?

I wish you wouldn’t. Sit on the rug and snuggle with the dog.

Andy? Come boy. Sit. Lay down. Momma, he’s drooling. Yuck. Andy stop it. 

Let him out.

Come on boy. Wanna go out? Swoosh

Cold

Momma, I’m cold.

Cheryl, just get ready for school and don’t put on that tutu over your leggings. Wear those plaid slacks with a sweater. Don’t forget socks and to pack shoes. You need to wear shoes at school. Remember, we talked about that. 

I can’t get the zipper momma. Can you do the zipper on my slacks? Do you like my purse?

Cheryl, just regular clothes. Nothing extra this morning, okay? I’m running late, and have to pick-up Mrs. Baraball before you walk to the bus. Where is your sister’s snowsuit? Have you seen your sisters’ snowsuit?

I put it on Ponytail ’cause she was cold.

Oh Cheryl. Alright. Get it for me will you? And then quick eat your lunch. 

There we go sweetheart. Let’s slip that leg in, and then the other…. Cheryl, are you eating?

Ahha…..

Momma, Andy’s at the door. 

Let him in and wipe his feet.

Come on Andy. Did you have fun in the snow? No, don’t go in there. Stay here. Your wet.

Cheryl, I’m late. I’m going to go get Mrs. Baraball. You walk yourself to the bus stop, Okay?

Okay. Are you taking Lissa?

Of course. She’s a baby.

I’m not a baby.

No. You’re a big girl.

Big Girls can take care of themselves.

That’s right. Don’t be late. You need to leave in just a few minutes or you’ll miss the bus.

Love you Momma.

Love you too.

I put on my galoshes and snow coat, kiss Andy, don’t lock the doors and walk myself to the end of the street.

The bus comes and I get on.

Hi.

Hi!

Ready for school today?

Yes. I have my shoes in this bag. Look. It’s a pretty bag. Do you like it?

It’s real nice, now take a seat.

Okay. I think I’ll sit in the back or would you like me to sit up front with you? Do you need a friend? 

I’m okay. Just find a seat little lady.

And I make my way to the emergency exit seat because I like the extra room.

Soon we pull up to school and the morning kindergarten class is lined up ready to get on as soon as we get off.

Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go. One group off, another on. Check your bags. Do you have everything you came with? Are you bringing everything you left with? Let’s move it kids.

I line up at the post were I will wait for all of my class to form before we go in. It’s cold outside. I hope the other buses get here soon. In the meantime, I look in my lunchbox and see that my mother forgot my snack. This is an emergency.

Mrs. Jones. Mrs. Jones. My momma forgot to put my snack in my box and I’m hungry and I think you should telephone her and she might come and if she doesn’t then I’ll be hungry…

Don’t worry Cheryl. We have plenty of snacks. You’ll get one. Calm down. There they are. All set? Everyone here? Okay, let”s go in!

Down the wet hall, pass my favorite water fountain, to my locker, coat hung, boots lined up, to my table.

I’m exhausted.

So is everyone else.

Good morning children. Let’s take attendance, practice our numbers and then have our snack.

I’m panicked about the snack situation. I can’t remember what number comes after 16 when it’s my turn. Now I’m embarrassed. But wait- no one else can either. SAVE.

If you would now quietly go to your lockers and get your snacks I would appreciate it. Cheryl, is the snack helper this week, so Cheryl, will you get the cups for the Kool-Aid please?

Excuse me. Mrs. Spellhopper? I have a problem.

What is it Cheryl?

I don’t have a snack today.

That’s twice this week. You need to remember it. I have extra, but no seconds understand?

Okay, but I’m hungry.

Then you should remember to bring one. You’re a big girl.

Yes. A big girl.

Graham crackers and Kool-Aide. The snack of champions and big girls with busy mothers.

Alright Boys and Girls. Let’s clean-up and then it’s story time. Get out your mats.

My mat is soft and pretty with satin edging. My grandma gave it to me at Easter. I love my grandma. She always brings me pretty things. 

Today we’ll read Hop On Pop by Dr. Suess.

A doctor wrote this book? This is going to be boring. 

I am almost asleep before page three.

ding-dong-ding

Excuse the interruption teachers. I have some very bad news to share. It has just now come across the radio. 

I am up. Why is the principle talking on the loud speaker? It’s not time yet.

This is very difficult.

Is he crying?

We have just been informed that President Kennedy was shot approximately an hour and a half ago in Dallas.

Dallas? Where’s Dallas? Is it near my house? A grown up’s been shot? With a gun? Are they coming here? Oh no. Mrs. Spellhopper is crying. What’s going on? Where is my mother?

He has died. 

I hear Miss Baker from across the hall scream. I stop breathing. I am scared. My eyes are crying. 

As a result, we are dismissing school early. Please have your students ready for pick-up as soon as possible.

No. That can’t be right. I can’t go home. What if no one is there? It’s the wrong time. My momma won’t know I’m there!  Who will be there? I will be alone. The person with the gun might be there! 

I can’t go home! My momma doesn’t know I’ll be there! I’ll be all alone Mrs. Spellhopper!

Your mother will be there.

No. No, you don’t understand. She works some place. She doesn’t know about this!

Everyone knows about this. She’ll be there, and if she’s not, go to a neighbors.

I don’t know the neighbors. They have boys. We don’t play. 

I have to call my husband. Jane! Can you believe this? Oh my God. 

I can’t go home. Where’s my sister? It’s cold outside. Please don’t make me go home. Find my mother. Please. 

Get on the bus Cheryl…

Your a big girl.





  • Cathy - Tragic day from the eyes of a little girl. So sad.ReplyCancel

  • A Pleasant House - yes. For all. I’ll never forget. I was so scared.ReplyCancel

  • Cyndi Calhoun - I’m affected by this and I wasn’t even anywhere being born, yet. The assassination of anyone is a tragedy. But this, it was so profound and so historical. And you were so little. I can tell that day had a profound effect on you, too. Very compelling post. HUGSReplyCancel

  • Kung Phoo - Wow that was a great recount.ReplyCancel

  • Helene Bludman - I love the way you wrote this post, Cheryl. It sounded very authentic to me.ReplyCancel

    • A Pleasant House - My life was that of any little child that day- just trying to understand what had happened and why all the grown ups were crying. Thanks Helene.ReplyCancel

  • Lynne Spreen - What happened after that?
    I remember being almost that little and for some reason mindlessly beginning to climb into my teacher’s car after school one day. Following her, I guess. She turned around at me and SNARLED, Where do you think you’re going?!? I was so frightened and shocked. Don’t even remember the end of my story. PS it was a Catholic school.ReplyCancel

    • A Pleasant House - Honestly Lynne, I don’t remember. My mom must have been home or the babysitter with my sister at least. I don’t remember another mention of this day- from my parents, or anyone else for decades. I don’t remember my parents crying or talking about it either, or seeing it on TV. It’s just sort of a big blank for me after getting on that bus. Maybe I was so scared I have blacked it out?ReplyCancel

  • Kay Lynn Akers - Your recount brought tears to my eyes as I felt the confusion of a young girl and really probably the whole country at that point. Great job!ReplyCancel

    • A Pleasant House - Thank you Kay. I think you’re right, though maybe a little girl felt it differently, but nonetheless, it was important. Thanks for stopping by. ALways wonderful to have a new reader!ReplyCancel

  • William Kendall - A very effective way of recounting the story.ReplyCancel

  • Kristi Campbell - Wow, what a visceral post. Beautiful and effective way to tell this story. Wow. I was going to ask what happened after that too but see another reader already did. What a great way to recount history. I really loved this.ReplyCancel

  • Natalie DeYoung - Wow, this was really well written. It felt like listening to your small self talk about it. I can’t imagine what that must have been like.ReplyCancel

  • Elin Stebbins Waldal - wow. so much packed into your memory. what a truly beautiful way to reach back in time and take care of the girl you once were. so beautiful.ReplyCancel

    • A Pleasant House - Thank you Elin. I really had no other choice but to tell this as I remember it. I’m so glad you enjoyed.ReplyCancel

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