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Into the Clan

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The Kennedys are the most welcoming family,” she said gushingly in 1953, not long after her betrothal. “The day you become engaged to one of them is the day they start saying how ‘fantastic’ you are.” The honeymoon didn’t last long. By the time Ted landed on her during one of the family’s interminable games of touch football, breaking her ankle, Jackie had decided that she had had enough. Of togetherness with the clan, she stated, “Once a week is great. Not every night.”

Her bouts with the sharp-elbowed Ethel were renowned. Once, in an unguarded moment, Jackie confided that she had wanted to study ballet. Eyeine Jackie’s large feet, Ethel guffawed: “What? With those clodhoppers?” And yet, after Bobby’s death, according to author Jerry Oppenheimer, it was Jackie who paid to replace Ethel’s leaking Hickory Hill roof.

Outnumbered and outflanked, Jackie ultimately held her own. Once she was 15 minutes late to lunch, a fatal faux pas when Joe was “in one of his Emperor Augustus moods,” recalled a friend. “He started to give her the needle, but she gave it right back.” Mindful of his penchant for old-fashioned slang, Jackie said, ‘ “You ought to write a series of grandfather stories for children, like ‘The Duck with Moxie’ and ‘The Donkey Who Couldn’t Fight His Way out of a Telephone Booth.’ ” At first there was deadly silence. “Then old Joe broke into roar of laughter.”