Nov 13, 2013

Anniversary Reflections: JFK and Daughter Caroline

As we near the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, several generations are viewing iconic images for the first time.  Mental images of the days surrounding that news and the subsequent memorial and burial ceremonies are burned in my memory. Anyone who lived through that time is likely to say the same. In the following years we witnessed a series of assassinations, never numbed to the horror but each time able to build on our prior experiences in coping and resolving the pain. To some extent we could at least anticipate the cycle of grief and acceptance.
Via Wikipedia
When Kennedy was shot we had no collective consciousness of coping on which to draw. For me, at least, that means every moment of the experience, including my nightmares about it, felt intensely personal. My empathy and engagement were magnified by the Kennedy family's youth and energy. The romantic idealism they projected was pitch perfect to the ear of my young teen self, steeped in an emerging commitment to civil rights, women's rights, freedom for all. The attack on Kennedy felt like a personal assault.

Images of Caroline and John-John Kennedy throughout those painful days were the most soul-piercing of all. To this day it feels like a fist clenching my heart just to mention John-John's salute and Caroline's grip on the edge of the flag draping her daddy's casket. Jacqueline Kennedy achieved a remarkable level of privacy and apparent normalcy for herself and her children in the years that followed, if reports are to be believed. They did recede from the public eye for the most part, despite the efforts of paparazzi and the relentless appetite for coverage by the public.

Caroline is the only survivor of that iconic family. Now she has accepted the post as Ambassador to Japan. I see her parents in her adult face, especially as she's reached the age range at which we most often picture her father; she mirrors both. Composed, committed, and competent. She's grown into this role in politics in her father's footsteps, just as she did in her mother's literary ones. 
Disney Press, 2013
In an earlier post on poetry I featured two of the anthologies she edited, both illustrated by Jon J. Muth: POEMS TO LEARN BY HEART and A FAMILY OF POEMS, My Favorite Poetry for Children. Reading was reportedly a lifelong comfort to each of her parents, as was sharing books, music, and conversation as a family. She reportedly shared poetry, including rote memorization, as a child and with her own children. 

Disney Hyperion,  2005
As this anniversary brings forward more and more images and commentary, memories flood back. Even after all these years there is pain and loss, on a surprisingly personal level. 

Poetry can comfort us still. 

Anyone else feeling especially affected by the anniversary?

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