Fall, 1956:  I am five years old. We are shopping at the bustling Steinway Street in Astoria, Queens, where my father would many years later manage a flooring store. Over the megaphone, a woman's voice blares: "Don't vote for Nixon!" over and over again. "Don't vote for Nixon! All he wants is to make our country poorer! Don't vote for Nixon!" I am terrified of this bad, bad man. Anxiously, I wait for my mother to come back to the car so I can ask her who is Nixon and what is "vote for"? She assuages my fears by saying: "Oh, don't worry. We're voting for Stevenson." (Nixon was Eisenhower's running mate.) When Election Day comes, she lets me go with her inside the curtained booth, and she lets me pull the lever for Adlai Stevenson. I am happy that I don't vote for Nixon. She doesn't  tell me that he won anyway.
Second grade.  All I know about President Eisenhower is that he plays golf a lot, and has heart attacks, after which he is said to be "very, very sick." Like my grandfather. Who died. No one tells me that if President Eisenhower happens to die, we'll get Nixon.
Third grade. We move to the suburbs in the summer of 1959. I start in the third grade. Customs in the suburbs are wildly different than those of the NYC schools. For one thing, we have not only fire drills, but also air raid drills. I love these. You line up along the wall and roll yourself up into a ball, hands clasped over your heads, like so many snails. Apparently, no one explains to me what the air raid drills are for.
Fourth grade. Life in the suburbs is bright and sunny, and, most of all, shiny and new. We have a 1959 brand new Plymouth Belvedere. Ultra modern Fins and chrome.. When we get our new President, he fits right in with my 9-year-old conception of America: Jack and Jackie! The ladies in the neighborhood dress as much as they can like her: pillbox hats, pearls, pastel suits. She is the ultimiate in class, style, and beauty. She redecorates the White House and takes America on a television tour, narrating it with that cotton-like voice of hers. Everybody talks about it.
Fifth grade. The Kennedys have two children when Jackie gives birth to little Patrick, who lives only a few days. I have a sleepover at my friend Jeannie's house. The Spiras are  Catholic, and like most Catholic families whose homes I visit, they had JFK's portrait displayed in their living room like he is a family member. Jeannie says  we pray for little Patrick. We get on our knees beside her bed and she shows me how to say a Catholic prayer. When I ask my mother why Jackie isnn't crying over the death of her baby, she says: "A lady doesn't cry in public."
Sixth grade. October. The Cuban Missile Crisis. I thinkt the world is going to end.  In school we have an air raid drill. I don't make the connection. We are in the car that afternoon, on our way to the dentist. I wonder why we are bothering, what with the world ending and all. I am afraid.  "Mommy, do you think President Kennedy knows all the words in the dictionary?" "Yes, President Kennedy is very, very smart." I am not afraid. If President Kennedy knows all the words in the dictionary, he can figure out what is the right thing to do.
Seventh grade: November 22, 1963. Friday. Last class of the day. Science. I am looking out the window. Bright sky. Cumulous clouds. The principal breaks in on the P.A.: The news. School lets out early. Teachers are crying.  I have never seen grown-ups cry. My friend Joan Meister keeps a scrapbook about the Kennedys. I try to find her in the schoolyard. I go to the elementary school to find Lisa. In that asphalt area next to the vast playground where we line up in orderly rows every morning to be admitted to school, I hear that our president died.
Jackie wears a black veil. She does not cry in public.
I don't ask Joan Meister about her scrapbook.
The Beatles make their American debut on the Ed Sullivan show a few weeks later. I become a teenager.
There are no more air raid drills.
Eighth grade: Johnson defeats Goldwater. The world is not going to end.
Senior year: Nixon becomes president.