When I was ten, I developed my first major crush. Unlike friends who were just discovering teenage heartthrobs like Frankie Avalon and Fabian, I fell in love with an older man. His name was John F. Kennedy. I filled scrapbooks with his picture, read newspaper articles about him and his family, and was thrilled when my idol became President of the United States.
The first year of his presidency, he visited my hometown and I remember standing outside with my entire class as his motorcade passed down the street in front of our school. When I got home that night, my father, aware of my obsession, told me to put on my best dress because my mother wasn't feeling well (a complete fabrication) and he wanted me to accompany him instead to a political dinner where Kennedy was speaking. I sat mesmerized, the only child in the entire ballroom, watching him as he ate dinner only feet away from me. That night I got his autograph; and the next morning I rode my bike a few miles away to stand outside the private home where I had somehow learned Kennedy was staying, waiting for three hours outside the gate until he emerged in a convertible, and I got the last glimpse of him I would ever have.
Kennedy was gone, but I remained a political junkie. And even though I have no official involvement or need to comment on the political conventions, I'm still too connected to politics to let it pass, and too much of a sentimental slob not to get a little teary at the whole thing.
Call me corny -- but tonight as I watched Michelle Obama and her daughters, I couldn't help flashing back to the beautiful young family who personified elegance and hope in 1960. Michelle is Jackie-like in her tall, slim figure and her bob hairdo--and in addition, she's the modern day counterpart of Jackie in what she adds to the full picture of her husband. All Jackie had to do was look good and beam her smile upon the world--but a First Lady in 2008 is expected to be more, and Michelle suits the times perfectly.
She took on the tricky and delicate job of addressing the world, and I thought she did it flawlessly. No matter how much she's been in the public eye during the past few years, it's not easy to manage the balancing act she did -- coming off as polished yet natural; someone you could admire yet someone you could confide in over a cup of coffee -- and doing all this in front of a worldwide audience.
As good as Michelle was, my favorite part of tonight was seeing her with her daughters, engaging in awkward conversation with Obama on the big screen. Obviously the Democrats thought that would make good television -- but I don't think there's another political family who could have pulled it off as well. Maybe it's just my memory of Caroline and John Kennedy, Jr., but something feels good about the idea of kids that age in the White House; not the lonely life of an Amy Carter or Chelsea Clinton, but girls who seem to have some spunk, sisters you can actually imagine playing a board game together, fixing each other's hair, or crawling into their father's lap to twist him around their little fingers. It's hopeful to think that instead of a Stepford family, we might have human beings inhabiting the White House. Even as orchestrated as the political conventions always are, the Obama family managed to exude a little spontaneity and love.