It comes as no surprise to anyone, in both the blogging world and my regular life – I am a conservative. You will find this to be true in my faith, family life, and political views – but there is one personal hobby/obession/past time that may surprise you, I am a Kennedy super fan.
My interest in this family was discovered with my first ever “term paper” assignment in middle school – 6th grade I believe. We were learning about research projects and told to pick a topic we would spend time getting to know intimatley (well as intimately as a 6th grader can), determine a thesis, and ultimately we would prove our theory with research. Lucky for me – a kid already fascinated by history – the writing was for English class, but the topics were areas of social studies from the 1960s. Just as you may have guessed, Jackie Kennedy was on that list.
This fascination is actually an inherited interest: both my grandma Jackie and my dad have a love of history and special fandom for Camelot. While growing up the letter my grandma received after sending a card of sympathy to the young widow was something we talked about and kicked off the many details I would ask that my dad recount of this unique presidency. On occasion, even my features were compared to that of Jackie’s O (hint: its the dark eyebrows and pale skin). So of course I selected her as my topic with my first round of research consisting of talking to my Dad.
Over the years it has become one of our favorite shared interests. He has gifted to me many books on the family, shared his recollection of the day Kennedy was shot over and over again, as luck would have it we both went to Dallas together for work and spent the day touring the museums of Mr. & Mrs. Kennedy’s visit. And of course the most cherished token of this bond, he gave me the letter from my grandmother’s collection of prized items.
Fast forward a few years later and I have married a boy with New England roots. Summers spent traveling north to Cape Cod would include day trips to Hyannis Port so I could get my Kennedy fill. We have even walked the the rose tour, complete with a stop for Lobster bisque! There are many celebrities, musicians, political figures, and religious heroes who leave me speechless, whose stories grace my books shelves, and have been the subject of many Google searches – but rarely do I find a book or a documentary or even meet a famous personality that leaves me as awe struck as this family. It truly feels as if they are our American royalty. I enjoy staring at their family images just as much as reading the many books I have acquired. I geek out over walking the streets they walked on the cape, in Providence and here Georgetown. There is an understanding with my husband that if there is a book or magazine featured somewhere about them it will be coming home with us – and even better their is an unspoken agreement with my Dad that anything he sees with Jackie’s smile flashing from its cover (I have books and mags from the grocery store) are to be picked up for me – I eat it ALL UP!
Well a teeny tiny confession….. I know the BIG dates, and I am pretty good at the geography… I can reference the social politics – but years or the foreign policy from Kennedy’s time aren’t exactly my focus. What has really fascinated me is Jack and Jackie’s love story or the plethora of family juicy secrets. I have poured over accounts detailing the vastly different personalities of the women who married into this unique family and how they interacted (one of my favorite books that became a for TV movie is on this topic). But I also enjoy the simple moments they all shared as a big Irish Catholic Family, probably since both Danny and I hail from the same beginnings – mine just has the added Italian side for spice! But at the heart of it all is the incredible grace, poise, beauty, strength, and wisdom that was Jackie Kennedy.
This year I have read the book by her personal body guard Clint Hill and saw the Natalia Portman film – “Jackie”. Awe – ya’ll they did not disappoint! From the book I have my very own Bessette Tour planned of the Kennedy happenings…. and the movie left me with quite a long list of things to Google and research. No matter what new infomarion I learn or the facts and figures I gather, my admiration for Jackie remains focused on a few primary aspects: how purposeful she lived her life, the values she believed in, the standard she would hold herself to – no matter what – and the way she let her feminine disposition be a source of power through her grace, poise, and simple beauty.
Anyone who knew her, any books I have read about her, and the timeline of her life always led back to the focus she placed on being present and purposeful. She married into a family that was highly competitive in sports, spending long days focused on lengthy competitions – but that wasn’t really Jackie’s thing. Instead you will read of how she spent her visits on the compound cultivating her own interests. During her time in the white house, she never lost sight of the things she wanted as a part of the world for her children, even if that wasn’t what people expected of her. The pressures of the public, of a family with expectations, or of life in politics would not distract her from her goals. However, she was respectful, careful and measured when she would find her own way of doing things, while living this fishbowl life. This often meant that some how people did not seem to be turned off or angry with her particular preferences. She was soft and gentle, but full of convictions and self awareness – so even when she was living a life FULL of things she never asked for – real life nightmares even – she was able to protect her efforts to remain true to her self and her babies.
So many things in life offer excuses. Going through the death of your husband for instance would likely let you off the hook for all sorts of obligations. Or suddenly being in charge of managing the staff of the WHITE HOUSE – yet she never lost her values. When my grandmother, an ordinary housewife from Florida sent her a sympathy card – she returned a thank you. She knew the names and roles of each of those who called her ma’am in the white house and would be sure to recall them whenever interacting, followed by a gracious thank you. Jackie was the strong, revered woman – first lady – because she was sure to not lose her simple manners, even when it was understandable. Living in Middleburg during so much of their time in the white house presented a lot of challenges – yet her team were so willing to make it happen because of how gracious she was to all of them. Thank you notes…. listening…using your manners as tools of power, I just LOVE that!
And finally – growing up in a world that sometimes being feminine can appear weak or simple. Why be a just a house wife when you can be a doctor? Why wear a skirt when you too can dress as the men do in suit coats and pants? There are of course so many reasons that equality is vital and to someone who doesn’t even really know a world without those rights, I would probably be surprised by how much I benefit when I am not even thinking about it…. BUT I am a firm believer in some of those feminine qualities being a source of power, a blessing we are given to navigate life – example number one? Jackie Kennedy. She used her love of fashion, appreciation for beauty, and appearance as wife who doesn’t care for the spotlight – to become one of the most influential first ladies ever. Never demanding a seat at the table, rarely talking above a breathy whisper, and through an appreciation for decorating she attracted the eyes and the hearts of the American people. Wanting to be a girly girl who wins over a foreign dignitary with a carefully perfected smile and careful presentation of the hand – who grabs their eye and then demands their loyalty by learning to speak in their native tongue…. oh, what a skill! She had grace, poise, and was perfectly coiffed with matching wardrobe – and then just like that the support of the most powerful country in the world.
Thanks so much for reading and remember to make it a great day!