“There’s Rose Kennedy. That poor woman,” said my dad from his perch on the couch where he watched JFK’s funeral.
This is the only memory I have of the Kennedy assassination. I was two.
While I have no active memory of Jack and Jackie during their time in the White House, I like to look at photos and footage of them. I like to read about them. And most of all, I like to wonder about them.
Not so much about alternative whodunit assassination theories, but about the personal lives of the central figures in that long-past Camelot. Are the rumors true about John and Bobby and Marilyn? Did Jack and Jackie have a real marriage or did they put on a façade? Was JFK, like Lincoln before him, gravely ill, his death imminent, even had he not been assassinated?
And the really great thing about all these issues, including the “real” story of JFK’s assassination is that no one will ever know. That’s in spite of the fact that it was the Kennedy Administration that ushered in the era of televised presidencies. Even though Jack and Jackie were in the spotlight, perhaps with the media’s help, they managed to keep us in the dark about nearly everything.
Compare that to the buzz about the Obama funeral selfie and Michele’s “gazerbeam.” It’s juicy. It’s so much fun. But who can respect these people??
What kind of person joshes around and takes selfies at a funeral? What manner of world leader joshes around and takes selfies at the funeral of an important figure?? What sort of world leader forgets that the camera is upon him/her every minute of every day, and in spite of this, takes no pains to behave with decorum?
Three world leaders flirt and FLOTUS offers a blatant display of jealousy, glaring and finally forcing a change in the seating arrangements. This is followed by the President, attempting to appease the First Lady, all of this taking place during the memorial service of a celebrated personage.
This is the kind of thing we never got to see in Kennedy’s Camelot.
Maybe that’s why Caroline Kennedy made the brilliant decision to keep Jackie’s iconic pink Coco Chanel knockoff suit, stained with JFK’s blood, out of public view until the year 2103. It’s all a part of the mystique surrounding Jack and Jackie Kennedy and a different time: a time when what was out of public view was more interesting than what we actually saw. Keeping this dirty linen out of the public eye is likely all about taking away the scenery and allowing our minds to fill in the blanks.
It is precisely what we never saw that enables us to keep our fuzzy-edged sparkly pink memories of the JFK era. It’s all due to the fact that we can continue to speculate and wonder and romanticize the Kennedys and other great figures from the past. We get to use our imaginations to endlessly guess about what they never allowed to show.
It’s a win-win situation. Jack and Jackie get to keep their glamour forever and a permanent state of grace that right now, seems elusive for the current White House occupants.
I enjoyed the juicy gossip as much as anyone, stealing time away from my work at Kars for Kids to giggle and point. But deep down, out of sight from my friends, I mourned for a time when things were different, a time when I was too young to know how great it was to hide from view.
And I wished that I could close my eyes for a time and just rest.