Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Kennedys in Georgetown

Last time I walked through Georgetown, I saw Maria Shriver.  Via my British tabloid habit I learned later she'd been in town for her daughter's graduation.  In an auction later this week, photos of her Uncle Jack and his young bride in their early years together will be on the selling block.

I've been besotted with the neighborhood since reading Katherine Graham's Personal History some fifteen years ago.  I loved her stories about throwing dinner parties with all the young stars in town, the best and brightest in the early, heady post-war years in Washington.  Later I would devour tales of Julia and Paul Child feeding friends Francophile dishes, drinking good wine, and of course smoking lots of cigarettes while solving the problems of the world.  The reading was a great thrill, if only a vicarious one: I was a new mother with a lot of laundry, and the idea of getting to visit, never mind work, in DC, seemed as unlikely as landing a cameo on West Wing. 

It turns out my life is charmed as such that I have now have a boss in the nation's capital and a reason to visit every few months.  When I am there, I sometimes get to perch in a visiting office with a view of the White House. Even among the jaded souls in the city, views from our conference room elicit gasps and shots from smart phones.  Everybody in the town is still the smartest kid in the class, but when I committed to my line of work, I knew I'd assigned myself to the back of intellectual bus.  I don't care.  Every time I walk down Connecticut Avenue, I pinch myself. 

When I have time in the morning or after office hours, I trek over Rock Creek to Georgetown, which still looks almost exactly as it did when JFK and Jackie strolled through it, at least once off the main drag, which is a crush of cupcake shops and upscale clothing stores.  But even there, one sees men wearing tweed jackets with leather elbow patches and matrons in well-preserved Chanel suits.

T and I visited together last May, and on our Sunday walk he brazened our way into an open house--it was a gorgeous-looking, red brick townhouse--on what looked to be a coveted street. I would never have had the nerve, but I really do have a lot more fun now that I hang out with him. Fully restored and four bedrooms, it was breathtaking.  There was a stuffy, manly study on the second floor and some very tasteful and convincing chintz wallpaper in the bedrooms. The footprint was intact, which meant the kitchen, though beautifully finished in white marble, was still designed for the help and so about the size of a walk-in closet in a Texas tract house. The pricetag was $4.1 million. As we attempted to skulk out, there was a woman, clearly a neighborhood fixture, crowding 80 and wearing a sweater with holes in it, cornering the realtor and commenting about the streaks on the windows. 

Of course, there were later black moments for that golden generation that lives in my imagination.  On days when I leave my Dallas office for home, I drive past the grassy knoll and think of Jack each time.  But I also remember he turned out to be an epic philanderer.  Jackie had herself an interesting time and a career after that, but those cigarettes caught up with her early. Katherine Graham oversaw the biggest story of the century at the Washington Post, but not until after her husband blew his head off.

After we walked through that expensive house, T and I talked about how it lacked soul, and even that there was an air of sadness about it.  A morning later, I took a walk on my own along P street and took in the quiet, outward perfection of it all.  Now I saw a little tarnish on the brass door knockers.  Dreaming about it was somehow more fun.


  1. Sue ~ You are an amazing writer. I loved this post!
    Hugs, Martha

  2. Really enjoyed this, Sue