Thursday, January 20, 2011

This Moment In Time

It is January 20, 1961.  I am twenty years old and working in Chicago.  My co-workers and I are heading for Ted’s Snack Shop, where we go for coffee each morning. 
As we exit the elevator, Donna is talking excitedly, full skirt swishing from side to side, heels of her stilettos echoing on the marble floor.  "Well, I’ve decided on the color of my bridesmaids’ dresses,” she says, patting her foot-tall beehive with one hand and smoothing her skirt with the other, "A delicate shade of lilac.”
She will have eight bridesmaids at her wedding at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in July.     
"Oh, my gawd,” Judy says, taking a deep drag from her Lucky Strike, “Seems like no time since my wedding.  And look at me now!”
We all laugh.  Judy is eight months pregnant.
“Hope your labor is as easy as my sister-in-law’s,” Shirley says, “It lasted only two hours.”
Shirley is twenty-six and lives with her parents.  She is serious and quiet, hair and skin the same color.  A very devout Catholic, she goes to church each morning and lives vicariously through her brother’s children, attending this one or that one’s christening, school activities.
“It should be easy for her to drop another one,” says Judy, “It’s her sixth!”
"Oh, Judy," Winnie says in her heavy German accent, "Don't be so crude!"  
Winnie is in her fifties, twice divorced, and very outspoken.  I am both shocked and fascinated by Winnie.  But I like and admire her.
Carlene and Rosalie, two girls from Central Illinois who live on the Near North Side, are talking about the guys they met the night before.  They often invite everyone to join them at bars on Rush Street for happy hour.  I don't know what happy hour is, but I don't tell them.  I'm afraid they'll think I'm ignorant.  I can't go anyway; I'm married.

"My break will have to be a short one," Therese says, "I've got to type up a bunch of stencils for Mr. Mayfield."

Therese is thirty-two and single.  She is very pretty and has a great personality but says she's tired of dating.  A voracious reader like me, we often exchange books.  She has been very helpful in making me feel welcome, including me in all activities:  going out to lunch, parties thrown for various co-workers’ weddings, baby showers.
They all have.         
As we enter Ted’s, John F. Kennedy’s voice rings out loud and clear from the small black-and-white TV on a shelf in a corner far above the coffee-drinkers’ heads:  “I, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, do solemnly sweah…”
I gaze at my friends' smiling faces as our young President is sworn in, not knowing this moment in time will be etched in my memory as long as I live.  


met said...

I remember that day and being awed that a president could speak with the words of a poet yet with such conviction and certainty. We would have followed him to the ends of the earth. Tragically, we only had to follow him to Dallas.

(Loved the blog: an excellent picture of the days of when.)

Brenda said...

Thanks, Met! Those were days of such promise and hope, everyone excited about the future. I look back at those times with great longing.

All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley