Thursday, November 21, 2013

Redux: Freeze Tag

Stop time.  Have her remember why they need to leave.  Decide to fly out that night, back to the capital, fly back to the children.  Think of a reason.

It is San Antonio, Texas, November 21, 1963.  They still have to do Houston and Fort Worth.  In the morning, they go on to Dallas.  She plans to wear her pink; she hasn't worn it for a year or more, since the visit of the Maharajah of Jaipur.  She has no idea.

I first posted this a year ago today.  

Since then I've thought, on and off, about the curious life of this in many ways tremendously ordinary woman, who found herself in the cross-hairs of history and so spent the rest of her life finding a way to survive that shattering experience.  She was not, and definitely not, approved of in our house when I was growing up.  Even at the lowest low, however - trying too hard in her late '60s minidresses or later, technically a widow but somehow with the louche air of a divorcée ("no better than she ought to be") - the harshest criticism was also, in the end, leavened - "...of course, you have to remember what she's been through..."  Not enough to redeem, but enough to explain.  And even, to a point, forgive - "...and she was so lovely in the White House..."   She was, but all that ended, fifty years ago.


  1. I've been thinking about this over the past days, and have come to a horrifying/depressing conclusion about tempus fugit and how we place ourselves within history. A child born today has this 'event' occurring 50 years prior. You know who got shot 50 years before I was born? The Archduke Ferdinand....

  2. Muscato, I think the italicized portion of your post captures the essence of the woman. As does Weston Liggett's concept of "tempus fugit." There was no "there" there. She merely embodied both the stylish cool of the early '60s and the loucheness of the decade or so immediately post-JFK-- "Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy" morphing into the tacky "Jackie O."

  3. Oh, lord - time in its flight. I'm always amazed at my good fortune in having been a small child around very old people, so that I have a kind of innate frame of reference that stretches back, now, more than a century. Still, it's a thought-making thing to know that we are as far now from "Camelot," whatever that was (mostly, as it was, created after the fact) as they were from those puzzled Edwardians of 1912-13 who, I believe, knew that something dark and difficult was heading their way.

    As for Jackie... well, she was first and last a charming woman, and sadly nothing evaporate as thoroughly and quickly as charm, especially when it is unaccompanied by substantive achievement. She left behind a prettier White House, a few glossy books she "edited," and two, now one, essentially functional children. No small thing, I suppose, but nothing next to her gossamer "legend."