Collages by Sheena, Queen of the Hallway aka Jo Ann Tunnell Muench

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While working on my art, I have discovered so many things about myself. And, these discoveries are visable in my work. The "Apocalyptic Childhood Dream" series stems from the late winter of my 12th year. Every time that I make a collage that has a misplaced moon, sun, or planet, you know that the imagery stems from the strange series of dreams that I had at age 12. 

 

The years 1963-1964 were monmental years in my young life. That year was when I truly lost my sense of innocence. My family were huge supporters of John Kennedy and I particularly loved the President and Jackie. In October of 1963, the month I turned 12, we learned that the Kennedys' were going to make a trip to Texas. My family was so excited. Mom and Dad were invited to the Texas Welcome Dinner for the President and First Lady on the night of November 22, 1963. My dad was very worried about the reception the President might receive in Texas. In fact, he wrote to his former boss, Robert Kennedy, asking that he use his persuasive powers to keep JFK from going to Dallas. Dad received a letter in return that said the President couldn't hide from the people and he thought he would be safe in Dallas. 

 

Mom and Dad decided to take my brothers and I out of class that day and take us with them on their Austin trip. They planned to stop at my Aunt's house, about 75 miles from Austin, have lunch and leave us kids there to spend the night as they proceeded on to Austin. I woke very early that morning and was filled with excitement. Next to my bedroom was a small bathroom with a windown looking out on the western horizon and towards Dallas. I tiptoed up to the window and looked outside. The western sky was blood red and I was frightened. I don't really think that I saw this as a premonition or omen but some part of my psyche was unnerved. 

 

I went into the den and watched tv with my dad. The President and First Lady were in Ft. Worth at a breakfast and we watched it being televised. Soon, we packed up the car and headed for Austin. That would be the last time I would ever see my hero, President Kennedy alive. I didn't have any inkling of that at the time, but I was strangely unnerved. I remember our drive to my aunt's house so well. Mother was making Christmas decorations and covering styrofoam balls with sequins. Tucked away in our storeroom is the Christmas ball she made on that long ago trip to Austin. 

 

At about noon we stopped at my Aunt's house. Mom and Dad had lunch and waited for their friends, dad's law partner and wife, to join them. The adults went into my aunt's kitchen and drank coffee and talked. My brothers went to the other part of the house to play. I sat in my Aunt's den and watched a live fashion show on channel 8 tv in Dallas. 

 

The next few minutes changed the course of my life. As I was watching the fashion show, a man suddenly appeared from behind drawn curtains. His appearance was strange and he seemed out of breath. I remember him saying that the station had received word that the President had been shot, possibly in the head, and that he was being taken to Parkland Hospital. I ran into the kitchen and told my parents and their friends what I had heard. My dad rebuked me strongly for "making up such terrible stories to get attention." I was caught in a moral dilemna. On the one hand, I recoiled at being charged with having made up such a hideous story to get attention and, on the other hand, I hoped beyond hope that the story was untrue. I began to question whether I had heard the bulletin correctly. Maybe it WAS my imagination. In tears, I ran back into the den. The fashion show continued. I began to think I had lost my mind. 

 

I began to turn the channel to "As the World Turns", a soap opera that my mom liked to watch. Nothing seemed unusual and the soap opera was proceeding normally. I was afraid and I was confused. Part of me knew that the words of the reporter were true and another part of me hoped beyond hope that I had imagined the whole episode. But, if I had imagined something like that so vividly, I knew that I was mentally unbalanced. I really didn't want to be crazy but I didn't want the President to have been shot either.

 

Suddenly, the soap opera was interupted by a bulletin from CBS News and Walter Cronkite was reporting that three shots had been fird at the Kennedy motorcade in Dallas and that JFK had been hit; perhaps fatally. Now, my parents and aunt ran into the room. I had never seen my parents so upset. I had never seen my father cry but tears were running down his cheeks. Soon his law partner and his law partner's wife arrived at my aunt's house and they were greeted with the tragic news. I can remember exactly what I was thinking when Walter Cronkite broke into the bulletin to say that Kennedy was dead. I thought, "what a sordid place for all the beauty of the his presidency to end." Later, I would read that much older and much more intelligent people had the same thought. 

 

My parents must have needed some time alone because soon my aunt was taking us toy shopping. As we wandered through the almost empty store, you could see people suddenly react as they heard the news. Everything was eerily quiet. I was heartbroken but I was also very,very frightened. In the thirty minutes that had just transpired, I had lost my innocence. I now knew that terrible things could happen for seemingly random reasons. I realized that life was fragile and that relationships were fragile. I understood that my parents were not the great stoics I had assumed them to be, but were people, just like myself, who made mistakes in judgment and who also could be brought to tears. 

 

Writing this, so many, many years later, I can still feel the cold stab of pain that I felt when my world exploded. I still yearn for the little girl who didn't know that the world was a dangerous place and that heroes can be taken from us. And, I long for my parents, themselves long gone, who tried, the best that they knew how, to shelter me from the harsh realities I had just witnessed. I was never the same after JFK's death. I became more introverted. I became more fearful. I was haunted by nightmares. I knew that, like John Kennedy, others that I loved could be taken from me in the blink of an eye. I learned that the world holds much sadness for those with tender feelings. 

 

 


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