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Sat Dec 24, 2011, 11:47 PM

A Kennedy Christmas Story: the gift my mother never forgot

It's Christmas eve and like many folks of a certain age, I miss my mother.

She was really my grandmother. I was adopted. This is important to understand the time span. Born in 1915, she lived in western Palm Beach county with her family until the hurricane in 1928 when she and her sisters were left orphaned by the storm. At 13 she went to live in foster care where the orphans worked as "the help" in the mansions in Palm Beach, and every Christmas the aristocrats gave them presents labeled "boy" or "girl."

Everyone except the Kennedys. Rose Kennedy took the time to learn all the children's names and presented them with a gift addressed specifically to them. So, this year, after losing her family, and feeling quite lost and alone, Rose Kennedy handed my mother a little box with the name "Olivette" on the tag. It was a hairbrush and mirror set.

Mother told this story dozens of times and it never changed. Except, as she got older, and more frail...and, as the world become more difficult and unforgiving for her, her telling of the story changed. Whereas she used to tell the story with a glint in her eye that indicated something like, "and that's how Democrats roll," she came to a point when she could barely finish the story without weeping. It touched her so deeply that someone of such high status -- a Kennedy -- bothered to know her name, at a time when no one else felt it was necessary to pay attention to a dirty little orphan with nothing. No family, no home, no money, no bright shiny future.

But, she had a name. And this, I think, taught her something that she never forgot: that she mattered.

She treasured that memory. It was central to who she was. She had long lost the hairbrush, but the lesson stayed with her for the rest of her life. That, she was a real person with a real name, and she mattered. And conversely, that the smallest acts of kindness and dignity can echo for a lifetime. Merry Christmas, ya'll. You matter. Each and every one.

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Arrow 23 replies Author Time Post
Reply A Kennedy Christmas Story: the gift my mother never forgot (Original post)
nashville_brook Dec 2011 OP
shraby Dec 2011 #1
freshwest Dec 2011 #2
nashville_brook Dec 2011 #4
DirkGently Dec 2011 #3
nashville_brook Dec 2011 #5
peacetalksforall Dec 2011 #6
nashville_brook Dec 2011 #8
Bozita Dec 2011 #7
Octafish Dec 2011 #9
nashville_brook Dec 2011 #11
Mnemosyne Dec 2011 #10
nashville_brook Dec 2011 #12
Mnemosyne Dec 2011 #16
mikekohr Dec 2011 #13
nashville_brook Dec 2011 #21
BeHereNow Dec 2011 #14
nashville_brook Dec 2011 #18
LiberalEsto Dec 2011 #19
nashville_brook Dec 2011 #20
NBachers Dec 2011 #15
nashville_brook Dec 2011 #17
Tippy Dec 2011 #22
TuxedoKat Dec 2011 #23

Response to nashville_brook (Original post)

Sat Dec 24, 2011, 11:50 PM

1. That's a beautiful story. Merry Christmas.

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Response to nashville_brook (Original post)

Sat Dec 24, 2011, 11:50 PM

2. Thank you, that made me cry. I had a friend who also associated with the Kennedy family and they...

Were good people. Years of John Birch Society and GOP hatemongering have not changed who they were, despite assassinations both of body and chararcter by the media. Thanks for this story.

and for you and your grandmother.

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Response to freshwest (Reply #2)

Sun Dec 25, 2011, 12:09 AM

4. if there was one thing mother wanted me to know, it was that 'good people' are everywhere

once you start looking for them. also, 'bad people.' you can't tell them apart by looking at their exteriors (their stuff/status/etc). people deserve a closer look.

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Response to nashville_brook (Original post)

Sun Dec 25, 2011, 12:02 AM

3. That's a beautiful remembrance & a lovely Christmas Eve story, NB.

Merry Christmas. And Merry Christmas, Olivette. nashville_brook's somebody that matters, too.

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Response to DirkGently (Reply #3)

Sun Dec 25, 2011, 12:21 AM

5. awww :)

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Response to nashville_brook (Original post)

Sun Dec 25, 2011, 12:21 AM

6. There are two ways to remember the story you told us this evening ... her name ... Olivette

 

and the Rose Kennedy name. Thank you for this little Christmas gift. Twice given.

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Response to peacetalksforall (Reply #6)

Sun Dec 25, 2011, 12:31 AM

8. it's a beautiful name.

funny thing, tho -- i got caught skipping school once b/c I misspelled her name on a note that i tried to pass. teenagers are baaaad.

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Response to nashville_brook (Original post)

Sun Dec 25, 2011, 12:22 AM

7. Great story told well! ... Recommended

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Response to nashville_brook (Original post)

Sun Dec 25, 2011, 12:31 AM

9. Merry Christmas, Brooksie!

Thank you for sharing your Mom's special holiday memory. Rose Kennedy understood each person matters, infinitely. So did her kids.

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Response to Octafish (Reply #9)

Sun Dec 25, 2011, 12:42 AM

11. Merry Christmas to you too, Octafish!

All I want for Christmas is more Kennedys --

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Response to nashville_brook (Original post)

Sun Dec 25, 2011, 12:32 AM

10. I miss mine too, nashville. Thank you for a wonderful OP, a beautiful tribute to your mother.

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Response to Mnemosyne (Reply #10)

Sun Dec 25, 2011, 12:56 AM

12. ...

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Response to nashville_brook (Reply #12)

Sun Dec 25, 2011, 08:44 AM

16. ...

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Response to nashville_brook (Original post)

Sun Dec 25, 2011, 01:09 AM

13. Thank you so much for this story!

Merry Christmas!

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Response to mikekohr (Reply #13)

Sun Dec 25, 2011, 08:27 PM

21. and, a big happy new year!

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Response to nashville_brook (Original post)

Sun Dec 25, 2011, 02:40 AM

14. "That she mattered"

Make me cry, why don't you...
So many of our young, disenfranchised people need to feel like they "matter."
They don't feel that way at all.
Tears and Merry Christmas to you.
Thank you for the memory of hope.
I haven't seen much of it lately-
BHN

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Response to BeHereNow (Reply #14)

Sun Dec 25, 2011, 02:26 PM

18. Merry Christmas to you!

BHN -- you can be your own hope!

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Response to BeHereNow (Reply #14)

Sun Dec 25, 2011, 07:15 PM

19. Mattering!

"So many of our young, disenfranchised people need to feel like they "matter." "

These days it starts with the parents who can't shut off their cell phones long enough to have a conversation, even if it's just baby talk, with their children.

It breaks my heart to see tiny kids trudging along holding a parent's hand while the parent's other hand is holding the phone that's occupying 99.5% o0f their time and attention. I am so afraid that these little ones will grow up feeling that they don't matter, even to the people who are supposed to love them the most - their parents.

My kids were born when cell phones were still new, and not everybody had them yet. Even so, I wouldn't have yammered away with someone while pushing my children in grocery carts. I talked to my daughters, pointed out things like fruits and vegetables, engaged them in face to face conversation. That's how a child learns.

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Response to LiberalEsto (Reply #19)

Sun Dec 25, 2011, 08:26 PM

20. that's an interesting point -- hadn't thought about distractions and "mattering"

but yeah, seems like I see a lot of distracted parenting. i'm sure a lot of that is b/c we're expected to be working around the clock. a lot is just distraction, too.

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Response to nashville_brook (Original post)

Sun Dec 25, 2011, 04:30 AM

15. And all these years later notes of joy and love still ring 'round the world this Christmas . . .

and affect more lives than either of these women could ever imagine - Thank you for your wonderful true story

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Response to NBachers (Reply #15)

Sun Dec 25, 2011, 01:26 PM

17. it's amazing how the smallest kindness can affect change

i really think this had a lasting effect...she was a completely different person from her younger sisters. much more self-possessed. felt that being poor (or tragic circumstances) meant doubling down, not giving up.

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Response to nashville_brook (Original post)

Sun Dec 25, 2011, 09:47 PM

22. Thanks for sharing....our contry needs more like Rose Kennedy

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Response to nashville_brook (Original post)

Sun Dec 25, 2011, 10:49 PM

23. What a beautiful story

I think you should send it to Carolyn Kennedy. I think she would treasure that story too. Thank you for sharing it and Merry Christmas to you. (((HUGS)))

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