Reflecting in the past week on the death of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 and how momentous it was in our personal lives within Fields of Gold: A Love Story, as Daddy and Mama reminded us time and again how personal President Kennedy’s assassination was for them.
Mama had just left Dallas with us babies when the news came over the radio, first that President Kennedy had been shot, and then that he had been assassinated. Mama told us over and over as we grew up how she pulled the car off the road upon hearing of his death and cried.
When Daddy got home from work that Friday afternoon in 1963, we went out as a family and bought the television that would be a mainstay in our lives for the next twenty years.
Mama and Daddy were as apolitical as two people could be. They cared about their country – the United States of America – but they cared nothing (and talked nothing) about its politics. For that I’m thankful because they passed that legacy of apoliticalness on to me.
They voted in only one election – 1956 – as newlyweds. They registered as independents, but voted for Dwight D. Eisenhower for President of the U.S. They never voted again for anything, as far as I know, in their lives.
But they must have identified with the kindred message that epitomized President John F. Kennedy’s election in 1960. Daddy and Mama, several years younger than President Kennedy, were not typical of their Silent Generation in some interesting ways (this was one of them), perhaps because they were only children with no siblings to influence them, and because they were orphans, with no parental guidance or influence in their lives.
In many ways, that was a negative that I believe became a positive for both of them. Daddy and Mama were always service-oriented, others-centered, and typified one of President Kennedy’s most famous quotes: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Daddy and Mama lived that philosophy with everything and everyone in their lives.
I always believed – and often told her, laughingly – that if Mama had been born twenty years later, she would have been right in the middle of the revolutionary activism for racial equality and social justice in the late 1960’s (she had too strong of a staunch moral conviction to have been involved in the moral lapses of the same period, so, in the end, perhaps she was born when she was supposed to have been born).
I suppose, then, it’s not surprising that some of the protest music of the 1960’s made its way into our very early lives, and probably had a greater influence on me than I realize, leading me ten to fifteen years later, with the help of my intriguing discovery of Rolling Stone magazine on Sunday afternoons spent at the local libraries in the towns we lived in along the way, into unlocking the treasure chest of all the music of the 1960’s and adding that to the soundtrack of my own life.
Here are a few of the songs and artists Daddy and Mama liked and included in this section of the soundtrack of our lives:
“Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” – The Kingston Trio
“Blowin’ In The Wind” – Peter, Paul, and Mary
“A Change Gonna Come” – Sam Cooke
“The Sound of Silence” – Simon and Garfunkel
“Masters of War” – Odetta
These are a few of the many songs I have tucked away in the memories of my mind from the days and nights of my earliest years on this planet, and, as always, I am thankful for the incredible soundtrack of our lives that Daddy and Mama began and we, their children, continue to add to now that they’re both gone, but never forgotten.
Maybe on this Sunday morning you can pull out the soundtrack of your lives and share it with your family, and don’t forget to keep adding those tracks. This will be part of the legacy you leave to them when you’re gone, and it’s priceless.