When Jackie Kennedy died, May 19, 1994, I cried—not the same kind of tears as the death Jack Kennedy, who died when I was 20—the tears of one woman mourning the loss of a great woman who died long before her time. Jackie should have enjoyed her later life: the Onassis money, her adult children, her grandchildren, her lovers. We wanted her to find peace.
So, when I saw that Kathy McKeon, former personal maid and sometimes nanny for Jackie Kennedy, wrote a memoir, it was required reading. And a lovely memoir it is. Just enough beans spilled to pique interest, nothing in bad taste. An homage to a great American family.
Such fascinating things are revealed. The lives of Irish immigrants who serve the wealthy on the Upper East Side, paid a pittance, but given lodging and meals and a foothold in the U.S. The title, Jackie's Girl, comes from Rose Kennedy who could not remember any names in the throngs that surrounded her. There was such sadness in Kathy’s telling of the solitary evenings of “Madame” as she rearranged furniture and artwork to kill time. Caroline is shown to be the blossoming figure of adult responsibility. John Jr. is shown to be capricious, rowdy, even described as medicated for ADD. Both children loving and respectful with Kathy and their mother.
Madame was grateful for Kathy’s talents, which she needed to raise her children in the rarefied air of the truly wealthy. But she did not respect Kathy’s personal time or needs. Madame came first, not surprising.
The story is woven throughout with the trappings of the lives of U.S. royalty (Greek, too): private planes, multiple homes with staffs, summers on the Cape. But the Kennedy family and Onassis, never seem stuffy, overly demanding or entitled. Ok, somewhat entitled. Kathy’s life experience while with the Kennedy’s (She joined them when she was 19 and lived with them for 12 years, until 1976.), at least in her retelling, was touched at various stages by learning, tenderness and inclusiveness.
Jackie’s Girl reads quickly—large leading on the pages, so it fluffs out to 300+. It shows the polish of a good ghost writer and editor. The small photo section in the middle is heart-warming. Recommended for all Jackie fans.