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THE EDUCATION OF JERI
3 October 2017
It has always saddened me to know that our children don't remember when we revered government. I remember when we were in Hyannis Port with my mother, who was thrilled to visit the Kennedy memorial. Jeri asked me at the time what was the "big deal" about the Kennedys, that her generation could not understand.
They never knew "Camelot," nor did any of us, I suspect, but we loved thinking about the fantasy, loved the tragic young president, his beautiful, noble widow, and the brother who was to take up the mantle for the family who had suffered so much. To Jeri, Bobby was barely a blip in history. A footnote.
Yesterday, Alice Nan was going to a luncheon to hear a speaker with whom she was very peripherally familiar. She hoped to remind him of those Kennedy days and talk about her role in the election of JFK and her work with Bobby's campaign. As it happened, that never happened, but Jeri again talked about how her generation doesn't "get" the Kennedys and Alice told her about what she did, as a teenager, to help JFK get elected and to work for Bobby's campaign as well. I knew most of the story, but I certainly didn't know all of it. And I am probably forgetting a lot of things in reporting it here.
She volunteered for the Kennedy campaign when she was about 15 and she worked closely with people coordinating his schedule. (The family lived in Bethesda, so she was close to the action.) She particularly worked with one guy who later, as it turned out, was responsible for sneaking young women into the White House. This guy was also responsible for keeping track of Kennedy's pills. As they did for FDR, the press was good about not reporting exactly how much pain the candidate/president was in and how many pills he took a day. This guy saw to it that he got his pills and Alice Nan remembers being in Kennedy's bedroom in his house, counting out pills into container with this guy. At the time she didn't think much about it but now, she can't believe she was in Kennedy's house counting pills.
She often entertained Bobby's kids when they were around and needed to be distracted.
Anyway, as a result of all of her work for the campaign, she got an invitation to the inaugural ball (the main one) and went with her brother Norm, who had to borrow a suit, and wore the borrowed suit and tennis shoes to the ball (that part I remembered). She still has her invitation and her ticket from that event.
Fast forward to Bobby's campaign. She wrote to RFK and reminded him of the days when she used to babysit for his kids at campaign events and asked if she could help in his campaign. He found her a job working with his advance team, the folks who plan the candidate's events every day. Each person on the team was in charge of a day and wrote up a complete schedule of everywhere the candidate was going, and then kept track of where he was in the day, calling ahead to the next venue if he was going to be late.
As it turned out, Alice Nan was responsible for Kennedy's very last day. She still has the sheet on which she recorded that day, the last event being "The Ambassador Hotel." She was in the hotel when the assassination happened and remembers hearing the gunshots.
It was a fascinating account, all of it, even though I knew most of it. I don't know that it helped Jeri understand the mystique of the Kennedys, but she certainly learned a lot about her aunt yesterday!
We had a fairly quiet day. The girls were in school so we hung around here and then met Jeri for lunch. She had been out bike riding, visiting her old haunts at UC Santa Barbara, from which she graduated.
After lunch and coffee with Alice Nan, who met us at a nearby cafe after she finished her own luncheon, AN went back home and the rest of us went to Tom's for a bit of a last visit with the girls. Jeri played the "story game" with Lacie, a game we gave the girls for Christmas last year, but which I had not seen played, since the one time I tried to play it with them, it was a disaster because the girls just wanted to fight. But it's a neat game. You have a bag of little objects -- people, animals, things like a coffee pot or a car or what have you -- and then a stack of cards, each of which has a background on it. The idea is to choose 8 things from the bag and one background from the stack and then tell a story using all of those things. It's the perfect thing for kids with an active imagination and I loved hearing Lacie talk about how much she loved the game.
Then we went outside, where Bri had created a whole city out of chalk outlines on the patio. They found a chair for me and I owned a Trader Joe's and kept track of the parking lot out in back, as well as selling Gatorade inside. They are so lucky to have a huge back yard with no grass because the girls get a lot of exercise running around and riding their bikes...and fighting.
Eventually they had to go to softball practice, which meant saying goodbye to Aunt Jeri, which was very, very sad. Bri tried to negotiate ways in which Jeri could stay another day and Jeri had to explain that she was a teacher and had students to teach the next day.
Lacie just cried. It was hard to get them to go to the car, but probably good that they had an activity to go off to. Jeri said there was lots of sobbing in the car.
We had to get going too because we were driving Jeri to the bus station to catch the bus to the Los Angeles airport, where her plane left at 11. No tears for us, but always sad to say goodbye her her. Easier when we know she will be back in a couple of months for Christmas. (And always a relief to wake up in the morning to a text message saying she had arrived safely.)
We waved goodbye and then walked back out to the car. The kids who were in charge of the check-in desk got excited to see my t-shirt, which is my "Lion King" shirt, which shows Rafiki lifting the young Simba over his head to show all the other animals...only on my shirt, instead of Simba, it's Elvis Presley ("the King," ya know). Only theater people ever "get it" and even then not many, so I was thrilled that these bus people knew what my shirt meant.
We came home to watch the last 3 episodes of Jeopardy that we had not yet seen, have some dinner and I totally passed out because I had about one hour of sleep the night before, one of my insomnia nights. Alice Nan had to wait up to go back to the Santa Barbara airport to get Joe, who had spent the weekend golfing with some buddies in Oregon.
So our time here is over and we will pack up the car and head home today and I will spend all evening finally getting these entries posted. I have to admit that this has been perhaps the least stressful visit here in memory and I think it's because I resigned myself to NOT publishing FTW every day, but to publishing it all when we get back. Certainly has eased the headache of wi fi problems! I still get to write it. It just has to wait for a few days before it goes public.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
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This is entry #6787