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Remembering JFK

A lot for 6-year-old to process

I had just turned six, and was getting used to the full-day school routine, after the year of half-day kindergarten. We had a new baby in the house, and my parents were preoccupied with her and my two younger sisters; I had to figure out a lot of things by myself. I walked to school, along with the other children in the neighborhood, and was proud that I could do it by myself.

Before we had completed the day’s routine, the teacher told us to put on our jackets; the day was over and we were going home. It did not match the schedule that I was trying so hard to learn, and I was confused by it, but went home to ask my mother to explain. It felt pretty strange to carry a full lunchbox home again. Perhaps we were told that the president had been assassinated? Perhaps not? My parents were very caught up in the whole Camelot thing; Caroline Kennedy is only a few days younger than I am; we all lived in Massachusetts; there was a great deal of hope and optimism around it all.

When I got home and walked into the kitchen, my father was there already, talking to my mother. They looked stricken, and so caught up in their own grief that they could not include me. I tried to ask what had happened, and they could not talk to me, and then my father looked straight at me and said, ”This is why you never point a gun at anybody.” Then he turned back to my mother, and I was left, once again, to figure things out by myself. I really wanted a hug or an explanation, and got neither. What I took away from it was that my father had accused me of killing President Kennedy. It was a strange, strange day.

Kate Dean lives in Greenfield.

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