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 TIME CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics with Congressional Quarterly

And then there was one

By Margaret Carlson

July 19, 1999
Web posted at: 11:03 a.m. EDT (1503 GMT)

TIME magazine

They were so close, Caroline and her brother John. When Caroline got married, John gave the first toast: "All my life there has just been the three of us--Mommy, Caroline and I..."

And now there is only one again of that trio that faced a life so peculiar that only they could understand one another. "They rarely made a decision without checking with the other," said a board member of Harvard's Kennedy School. Jackie sheltered them from the garish glare. "I don't want my children to live here anymore," she said in anguish after Bobby's assassination, fearing America's violence. She was also wary of the immense pull of the hyperactive clan and the demons that came with it. Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin told Jackie at Caroline's wedding how striking the closeness between her two children was, and Jackie said, "It's the best thing I've ever done."

They were the matron of honor and best man at each other's weddings, a pillar in each other's lives and that of the country, dividing the labor of carrying on their father's legacy: Caroline taking the library, John the Kennedy School. But as close as they were, they were also very different. If John was an Adonis, she was pretty in that Irish way, all teeth and wavy hair and good healthy vigor. They both worried about how to have a meaningful life in a fishbowl, but John would lead a life that required he bat away the paparazzi while Caroline would have a life in which she could walk her children to school and answer her own phone. She would even intellectualize the quest for privacy in a book on the First Amendment, In Our Defense. While John had an effervescent star quality, a glamour about him and his stylish wife, Caroline was incandescent, without a trace of glitz, but glowing from within. She was entirely free of the resentment that attaches to the famous. She never took its perks or used its privileges except in service of the family. After John's smashing performance at the Democratic Convention in 1988, she was asked to serve as chairwoman of the convention in 1992, and she spurned the offer few would have turned down. She more purely embodied her mother's passions: not politics, which was passing, but arts and culture, which were lasting.

If it was hard to be the son of J.F.K., imagine how hard it is to be the daughter of the valiant widow. Caroline had some of the remote, mysterious quality of her mother. When I met her for the first time, I expected to hear that whisper, see a will-o'-the-wisp, but found instead someone with a firm voice, incredibly self-possessed and with a day-to-dayness about her. You could picture that she could make her way in Manhattan, hailing taxis and going to the movies and taking her children for ice cream in Central Park without causing a fuss.

Caroline seemed to subsume her mother, taking up her passions of horse riding and ballet and books. Jackie wanted her children to be serious. She had the historians and intellectuals to dinner, not the crowd from Mortimer's. Barbara Gibson, Rose Kennedy's secretary, remembers Caroline as preternaturally poised and calm. "Caroline was the most trustworthy. I would lend her my car."

Caroline was a good student, attending the Concord Academy, Radcliffe and Columbia University law school. She landed a job at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which her mother loved and lived across the street from. She rented an apartment on the West Side with three roommates. She partied ever so lightly and dated a writer for two years before meeting an older man, Edwin Schlossberg, an eclectically brilliant polymorph, an author and museum designer, whom her mother adored. Schlossberg was 13 years older than Caroline, almost the same age difference between Jack and Jackie. She had as private a wedding as a Kennedy could have, registering her Luneville Old Strasbourg china ($50 for a five-piece setting) at Bloomingdale's, marrying at a small Catholic church on the Cape, her cousin Maria Shriver as her matron of honor.

"The best way to get John to do something," said a Kennedy staff member, "was to get Caroline to ask him." At one of their last appearances together, a dinner at the Kennedy Library for J.F.K.'s birthday, a library patron was struck by how happy the two children and their spouses were taking up where Jackie left off. "At the end of dinner, Carolyn was sitting on John's lap. And there were Ed and Caroline, leaning into each other, catching each other's eyes."

As much as Caroline loved her aunts and uncles and cousins, she had chosen last weekend to go rafting out West with her husband and three children. It's hard to picture her bucking herself up in the Kennedy way, throwing herself into games of touch football, sailing off the Cape. She will instead fall back on what her mother so carefully passed along--her normalcy and wholeness--and something her mother never thought she would have needed: the strength to bury someone you love way too soon.


MORE TIME STORIES:

Cover Date: July 26, 1999

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