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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sailing in Camelot

As part of the "perk" of presiding at the wedding of some parishioners who chose to be married near their summer home on Cape Cod, I got to go sailing yesterday with Ted Kennedy, Jr., and his sixteen year old daughter, Kylie.

No, really.  I did.  Hand to Jesus. 

It's not what you know, it's who you know.

Kennedy and the prospective bride had been classmates since grade school and have remained friends over the years. Ted graciously offered to take some of the wedding guests out for a sail on his boat, the Mya.

Well, it's his boat now - a 50 ft., three sail Concordia Schooner - but it once belonged to his father, Ted Kennedy, Sr..

Before that, it belonged to his Grandfather, Joe Kennedy.

I must say that the boat is every bit as gracious as its captain.

Ted  took us first through some backyards as a short cut to a private beach so he could give us the 'lay of the ocean' as it were, that we'd be traveling.

"Some" backyards, indeed.  I hadn't realized that we were in the midst of what is euphemistically called "The Kennedy Compound".

On our way back from the beach, we came upon "Aunt Ethel" who was just leaving in her convertible - with the top down - and looking fabulous at 83.   She graciously invited us into her home "to have a look around."

We soon found ourselves standing in this room as seen here in this famous photo of the Kennedy Clan gathered around the television set, watching the returns of the Presidential race.

That's Jack, of course, seated in the chair, with Ethel and Bobby standing behind him.

The picture is hung on the wall under the stairs.

This room flows into the living room.  I was immediately struck by the two pictures on the end tables on either side of the couch:  One framed pencil drawing of Bobby.  The other, a framed pencil drawing of Jack.

I wondered how "Aunt Ethel" lives with those sad memories and tragic losses, but the answer came soon enough in the form of two very friendly, energetic golden retrievers who bounded up to greet us.  'Trievers are pure, unadulterated joy and even though these two were no longer pups, you couldn't be around them for too long without breaking into a great smile. 

When we returned to Teddy's house, we learned that it had originally belonged to Jack and Jackie.  I was just blown away when I heard that.

I grew up in Massachusetts and spent a great deal of time on the Cape as a kid, working summers as a waitress in restaurants in Falmouth, Hyannisport, and Osterville.

To stand in those homes, however, caused me to be overcome by the knowledge that I was standing in a piece of what was known as 'Camelot'.

For whatever you may think of the Kennedy's - and, they are certainly no strangers to controversy and scandal - I have to tell you that I can't even begin to describe the feeling of being there.

Soon enough, our party of about 10 walked to the dock where we were taken by boat out to The Mya.  We were greeted by "Brad," a summer intern from the Maritime Academy, who serves as part of Kennedy's crew.

There were about half dozen seasoned sailors among us, which was a good thing.  It took about four people to hoist the sails, do whatever one does to the 'boom', and get us out to sea.

When we were out to sea, Ted graciously invited two of our younger mates to have a turn at the wheel.

He gave them minimal instructions and then nodded to one of the more experienced men among us to sit by them as he went to the bow of the schooner to visit with some of the other guests.

He also instructed Brad to bring out lunch - sandwiches and soft drinks, all nicely boxed - for us to eat.

It was a perfectly beautiful day.  Temperatures in the high 80's.  Not a cloud in the sky.  The term "smooth sailing" was certainly created for this trip.

This is eight year old William who was thrilled beyond the telling to have a chance to captain the schooner.

He kept his eye on the compass (well, that's probably not the appropriate nautical term, but that's as good as you're gonna get from this landlubber) the whole time.

He was sooOOOooo excited, and who could blame him?

There were also moments that made this mother's heart skip a few beats.

Here, Kylie Kennedy is joined by a friend who perched themselves on the boom as we sailed along the ocean.

Everyone else seemed quite relaxed about this.  I, on the other hand, tried not to look and, instead, engaged others on the boat in conversation.  It seemed the only sensible thing to do, as carrying on like a panicy mother of children who were not my own was clearly not 'meet and proper' behavior for an Episcopalian.

We returned to land in plenty of time for me to wash the sea salt out of my hair and get ready to preside at the wedding, which took place out on the lawn in front of the ocean.

It was simply lovely.  Part traditional for the groom, part contemporary for the bride.  The assembled guests seemed to be enchanted by the setting and inspired by the service.

Ted came back for the wedding, complimenting me with "you did good up there."

He is a gracious, very down-to earth man with a generous heart and a wonderful, charming smile.  He has known more tragedy and loss in his young life than most - including the loss of his leg as a young child to bone cancer.

I must say, however, that he moves along that boat as easily as he does on land.  If he hadn't had shorts on, one would never know he had an artificial limb.

Ted Kennedy, Jr. is also the part of the legacy of Camelot - the dream that shaped and formed so much of my life and, in fact, my world view.

I am a hopeless dreamer and forever will be a grateful debtor for the gift of that dream of creating a place "where once it never rained till after sundown, by eight a.m. the morning fog had flown". . .. . for everyone who lived in Camelot.

It was wonderful to be so close to it again.
Don't let it be forgot
That once there was a spot
For one brief shining moment that was known
As Camelot.


PseudoPiskie said...

Wow! What a privilege! Thanks for taking us along virtually.

whiteycat said...

Lucky, lucky you! I'll add my "WOW!" to that.

Mary Beth said...

Thank you for sharing this great experience with the blogosphere.

Fran said...

Wow! What everyone else said! Plus reading this made me all weepy, for so many reasons.

Thank you!

Joie Weiher said...

Oooh, can I touch you?? You are on fire!

Since my mother and her family are from the Boston area, this Texas girl has always had a soft spot for the Kennedy family no matter their "issues" lived out in glaring public light. I'm totally sentimental and teared up at Ted's funeral. What a great way to spend a work-day!

Susan said...

Oh, dear, Elizabeth! I am almost in tears thinking about this wonderful family and how lucky we all are that they answered the call of public service. I am also so glad that you got the wonderful opportunity to go sailing on the Mya - what fun!!! By the way - one of my first jobs was as a swimming instructor at the "Y" - I can teach you - you need to know so you have no more "white knuckle" times.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Can I have your autograph?

Wow, you did better than the Andy Warhol 15 minutes of fame. I am truly impressed!

Bex said...

Best "what I did on my summer (sorta) vacation" story ever!

Anonymous said...

Another wow here! I just finished the memoir "True Compass" by Ted Kennedy Sr. The Kennedy family has sacrificed so much in service for our country.

Thanks for sharing.


Grandmère Mimi said...

Wow! What else is there to say about your Camelot sea story?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Almost a week later and all I can say is Wow!

Lisa Fox said...

And a belated "WOW!" from me, too.

Merisi, Vienna said...

What a wonderful trip back in time and back again!
I chanced upon your blog looking for - what else? - Camelot. Glad I did, thank you for the story!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Come back any time.