Monday, October 22, 2012

It was 50 years ago today...

The news reminds me that today is the fiftieth anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was five years old and remember it like it was just fifty years ago…

My Uncle Jamie in striped shirt, I'm the girl with the headband.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, and my parents' marriage crisis, we went to live in Miami Florida. We traveled by car from our home in Portsmouth, Virginia.  We went to live with my maternal Grandmother who lived right on the beach. "We" included me, my mom, brother and sister, and baby brother. Being five in Miami was a blast (almost literally if the Cubans had carried out their threat. Thank you, JFK). Life was a beach and it was certainly not a Dick and Jane existence. Dick and Jane never waded with flamingos  They never chased armadillos out from under the car when Grandma wanted to go somewhere. And in no edition of Dick and Jane do I see their Uncle with a monkey named Zeke on his shoulder. My Uncle informs me that said monkey would sometimes “piss in his ear.” I doubt that any edition of Dick and Jane used the word piss, either. More’s the pity as it would've enlivened those dreadful banal readers.

Me at age 5, my Uncle Jamie at age 9.
I remember a happy time of playing on the beach with my brother and Uncles. The Uncles were only 4 and 10 years older than me (I am proud to be born on my favorite Uncle’s 10th birthday!) and we kept my mother and grandmother busy. If there was a television on the premises, I don't remember one. Times were tense with the unfolding crisis and here we are, right in Miami with missiles pointed at us.  But the adults never let on what was happening. They didn't watch news broadcasts endlessly (or at all). We were secure in our innocence of events. We got up in the morning and had breakfast. We played on the beach, and grandma took us to Key Biscayne where I met my first flamingo. I still remember how it smelled (not good!).

We went about our normal daily routine. No one was sticking a microphone in our faces asking us how we felt about the impending ending of life as we knew it. No one was offering us “counseling” for our fears. Because the adults kept it to themselves, we had no fears.

My oldest Uncle, who was 15 at the time, says that we lived only yards from a set of railroad tracks and down those tracks were some of the first Minuteman missiles. Scary to think about today—on the verge of WW3 and I was that close…

My mother, grandmother, and youngest Uncle are gone now. I’m thankful that they allowed us our innocence of those tense, frightening times. They soldiered on with the tasks at hand; taking care of a handful of children and keeping our lives normal. It was a time of courage for world leaders, and for the folks at home. Let’s hope that our world leaders today can summon similar courage.

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