I remember the day of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s funeral. I was out doing laundry and when I came back home who was standing on my doorstep talking to a friend but John Kennedy Jr., I live above a trendy cafe that he had clearly been to in case you’re wondering why he was in front of my house. My whites and I had to politely excuse ourselves to get upstairs.
Where am I going with this?
There is a new book out, Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life With John F. Kennedy, with a forward written by her daughter Caroline that I can’t put down. It comes with 8 audio CDs along with 349 pages of written content.
I’ll admit, I’m one of the millions of Americans still fascinated by The Kennedys, especially Jackie. I was lucky enough to have seen her on more than one occasion.
My back would automatically straighten while my heart thumped against my will. There was just something about her.
‘She was the best of our ‘History’ walking past.’
The book consists of interviews she gave the late, great Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in 1964 at the age of 34 right after she became the nation’s second, youngest widowed First Lady, Francis Cleveland, wife of Grover at 26, being the first.
ABC’s own Diane Sawyer, who’s pretty classy herself, had the privilege of airing these tapes on September 12th.
Jackie’s voice, so low and breathy, intoxicated me. I felt like I should have been in my best dress as I leaned in to listen.
I believe she loved J.F.K. that, we know now, couldn’t have been easy. His flagrant infidelities so well concealed by the press must have wounded her deeply. Perhaps it was the French in her, the Bouvier side with that built in creed of ‘all is permissible,’ that gave her the strength to stay the course (8/15). She even admits loving her rake of a father-in-law Joe Kennedy. I might have too if he gave me a million bucks to stay with my canoodling husband.
But there was so much more to her than tolerance . She was extremely wry and witty and held no punches when it came to her opinions like when she calls Indira Gandhi a prune. Indira could have used a little moisturizer, I most certainly agree. And Clare Booth Luce, whom Jackie refers to as masculine and perhaps even lesbian, could have been a man for all we know. After all, we thought Jack was a loyal, doting husband didn’t we? Doesn’t that prove anything’s possible?
As for her controversial comments on Martin Luther King, I’m going with Caroline on this one who points all fingers to the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover’s venomous slander that seeped through his notorious wiretapping. What would you say if you were told such malicious libel? She was vulnerable, she believed the people around her, SHE WAS 34!
The part that I can’t help warming to is how much she loved being a wife and mother, despite the ongoing challenges. When Mr. Schlesinger suggested she was like a ‘Japanese wife’ she agrees without pause.
I was also raised with that geisha mentality. Part of me even thinks I’ll still be married one day whipping up casseroles for the love of my life.
It’s an old-school ideal embedded like a sliver you can never quite dig out. Of course my time to have kids is past but I could always raise something else like rabbits or turtles. We can love just about anything if we make up our minds to, as so many of the men I’ve adored in my own life have proven.
I couldn’t help chuckling at the part when J.F.K. goes to confession in a little church in West Palm Beach. “He’d slip in and out,” she said, “like any other ordinary person.”
‘Bless me father for I have sinned it’s been 3 weeks since that strawberry blond, double-jointed stewardess and my last confession” (I was raised Catholic, I can say that).
In Catholicism as long as you respectfully repent, in return you’re given a clean soul. It’s very much like using an ‘Etch a Sketch.’ You get to erase your sins vertically just to recommit them horizontally.
“Oh do be serious Susannah.”
“Okay, if I must.”
I was 9 in 1963 when I watched her march stoically down Pennsylvania Avenue flanked by Bobby and Ted. I remember being at my friend Mary-Jo Lombardi’s house in her den while her mother, Loretta, with tears the size of raindrops sobbed on the sofa.
Now when I watch that famous footage I see why we have forgiven her everything including her runaway marriage to Aristotle Onassis.
What’s the definition of dignity? Jackie.
Grace Under Fire? Jackie.
I want to have compassion for Jack especially when Jackie quotes the late Ted Sorensen, a Kennedy speechwriter, who said, “Jack always slept like a soldier in a foxhole.”
She’s the one though who evokes the most in me since I’m certain she too, at such a young, tender age, had to sleep with one eye open then, afterwards and always.
Jacqueline Kennedy will forever make my heart thump, even on tape.