I was ironing as the world wobbled.

MOXIE COSMOS SAYS . . .The news that “Nancy Hughes” died brought with it a tornado of memories of the 1960s housewife I once was, striving to be perfect. Soon after my first child was born in 1959, I became a devotee of As the World Turns.  On November 22, 1963, the show was interrupted for Walter Cronkite’s announcement that President Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

The sky was gray. I had just fed my two toddlers and put them down for naps. I was ironing their matching green and white striped, Gay Sprites and Merry Mites outfits, gifts from their grandmother, so they would look nice when our company arrived.

At the time, their father and I belonged to the Unitarian church. Every other Friday we had a “changing potluck.” That night three other couples were to arrive at six with their assigned parts of the meal. They did, and with gloom that dragged behind them like lead-weighted clouds. We could hardly eat. Among our friends that gloom hung on for weeks.

The actress, Helen Wagner, was 91 years old when she succumbed to cancer on May 2, 2010. When I watched her play out her patient mother’s role in the series she must have been in her early forties. Her small screen children were old enough to marry and get into problems leading to divorce. They were in my age group, and probably dreaded cancer like the rest of us did in those days, so much so that it was rarely mentioned out loud.

I have suppressed much of what happened in that period of my life. One unforgettable but somewhat painful event was the day the mother of my blonde preschooler’s best friend agreed to come to lunch. The Johnsons were dark-skinned. The boys played as usual without noticing the difference. The lovely mother and I visited politely, and as a budding journalist I wished we could each have written half of the story of our nervous feelings about eating together.  I envisioned a magazine publishing it, side by side, her part in black type on a white page and mine white on black.

Good things happened, too. I had a third child. We remodeled the attic into rooms for the older two, buying a staircase that rose from the back door leading to a screened porch, a nice yard, and a sandbox made from a rowboat given to us by our over-the-fence neighbor, the nephew of Samuel Clemens. Many dark nights one of us was out there with a flashlight looking for a pacifier or Matchbook car. We spent a summer in Montana, my first experience of real mountains. We moved to Georgia for two years, selling our house, putting the equity into my husband’s further education. I read Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex.  The third rest rooms were shut, and the Black Student Union at Georgia grew from two in 1967 to 50 in 1969.

There were two more dreadful assassinations.  But it was the Kennedy assassination that led to our eventual divorce. It was when my world first wobbled, and I began to see what really mattered.

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