I have always had a fascination with Jackie O. Having grown up and lived my entire life in Massachusetts partially explains it. Yes, we have a certain fondness for this family. JFK was born and raised here, during our early education years we go on field trips to the Kennedy Library. We still had a Kennedy representing us in the Senate through 2009 and now, at least in my district, we have a Kennedy again representing us in the House.
My fascination with Jackie is not so much political. I have a fascination with her as a person. The grace, the style, the poise. When I turned 30 I announced that it was time for me to be “…more Jackie and less Britney.” She was educated, well rounded, smart, beautiful, etc. etc. etc. Say what you will about her husband or their marriage, but I can’t find fault in her.
I admire her grace and resilience. She gave birth to a stillborn daughter, then two live children. Her fourth child, a boy born prematurely, passed away two days after his birth. Three months after the death of that son, her husband was assassinated as she sat beside him. I can’t imagine giving birth to a stillborn. The thought was so terrible in my mind that I decided to have a D&E when given the choice. Then to give birth to a son and have him pass away after two days. That seems equally unbearable. And then to have her husband shot, as she sat beside him, and to hold him in her lap as he lay dying. What could any person have possibly done to deserve all of that?
And the kicker, it seems to me, is that this was all so public. The world was privy to her tragedies. She could never be anonymous – her face was known across the globe. People could respect her privacy, but everyone knew who she was and what she had been through.
So I look at myself and my situation. Yes, it was terrible. Yes, it was sad. Yes, I had told people that I was pregnant so it was “public” in that I told my friends, family and some coworkers. And a lot of the pain has to do with telling people I lost my baby – having to tell the story (if I choose), having to endure people and the things they say to try and make you feel better or rationalize my experience. Or to see the sad, sympathetic looks. Or have people not meet your eyes and look away. That is all the icing on the cake.
I look at this woman that I admire, who endured so much, and who went on to be successful. She was a fiercely protective and devoted mother. She tried to do the best she could for her children, who might have grown up in a fish bowl. She persevered. She held her head high, she was graceful and dignified. I’m sure she experienced the pain and the grief of her losses in private, but she carried on. She didn’t have a choice. Neither do I.
This is a woman who “had it all”, so to speak. From the outside at least. Handsome husband, well to do, educated, respected, fancy designers creating her gowns and fashion, not only admired by people in her own country but people across the globe. Popular, powerful, beautiful. If tragedy and loss can happen to someone who has so much, it can happen to me. It doesn’t matter that I think I did everything right – married, house, dog, master’s degree. Good job. Promotion last year. Money in the bank. I feel like I did everything right, and life is supposed to stay on this course. If you do this, then you get that. Apparently not for me. And not for Jackie either.
Fifty years later she is still a role model. At least to me.