I was born to S. Frank (Bud) Raftery and Marjorie (Marge) Raftery (nee Belt) on April 4, 1957 at the Columbia Hospital for Women a few blocks from The White House in Washington, DC. My dad was a General Organizer for the International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades and by the time I came around my mother was a very busy fulltime homemaker. I am the 7th of 9 children: Elizabeth (Betts), Michael (Mike), Marjorie (Maggie), Barbara (Bobbie), Mary Ann (Mary), Virginia (Ginny), James Patrick (Patrick), Jane Marie (Janey) and John Joseph (Johnny). Our births covered a very interesting two decades. Betts was born during WW2 and Johnny was born into the turmoil of the early 1960s. Yes! We are baby boomers.
My first memories of early childhood are of being parked in a stroller on our driveway on Wadsworth Dr. in Bethesda Maryland. Our front yard was full of sweating heaving dark giants laying sod. I remember seeing the rolls of grass and fascinated with how they unfurled the rolls onto the dark brown dirt. I can still feel the heat, smell the grass and squint at the bright sunlight. I remember them pounding down the sod and watering with hoses and drinking out of the hose’s nozzle. Presumably my mom or one of my sisters was the person overseeing this work project and my morning stroll. I was very happy in that stroller and had no desire to run and play in the grass or roll in the dirt or be out in the sunshine. That much has not changed.
I remember the long nights in the summer of 1963 with my bedroom window open and the ceiling fan outside my door. When the noisy fan was on at night you could feel the air moving and smell the flowers outside in the garden and feel the weight of the heavy humid DC heat. I woke every day to the sounds of construction work from the top of our street, trucks and drilling. That section of “The Beltway” between River Road and Old Georgetown Road opened on November 15, 1963 and President Kennedy was shot on November 22, 1963 just a week later.
I couldn’t know at that time how important these events would be on the world. I really felt the reaction of the adults to Kennedy’s death. I saw my teachers crying and every adult I saw on my way home from school was crying. The opening of that section of one of the great highways in America however meant that for the rest of time “inside the Beltway” would define life and politics in that small geographical area into which I was born.