By People Staff
August 01, 1999 12:00 PM

For a little boy, what a grand adventure it was. John Kennedy Jr. was 2 months old when he and 3-year-old Caroline moved into the White House. And, though Jackie insisted that her children respect their privileged position, John, encouraged by his father, treated the First Family’s spacious residence—from Oval Office to third-floor nursery school—as a landscape of discovery and delight. As any boy would, he relished the constant military presence, with Marine guards snapping salutes and staff officers rushing about in crisp uniforms. A toy helicopter was one of his favorite playthings, and he would march like a soldier by the desk of his mother’s personal secretary, Mary Barelli Gallagher. “Always,” Gallagher wrote in her memoir My Life with Jacqueline Kennedy, “all the excitement within him would burst forward.” After JFK’s assassination and John’s brave little salute to his father’s casket, the 3-year-old still had trouble understanding the vague explanations offered by his mother and his nanny Maud Shaw. “Your father has gone to heaven to look after Patrick,” Shaw told him, referring to the Kennedys’ infant son who had died four months earlier. And John, thinking of Air Force One, which he loved, asked her, “Did he take the big plane with him? I wonder when he’s coming back?”