Rose Kennedy was a woman who took a special interest in what her granddaughters wore and how they wore it, her granddaughter Caroline says in her recently published poetry anthology.
At a lunch on Wednesday, Caroline Kennedy described the time she and her cousin, Maria Shriver, were visiting the Kennedy matriarch in Florida and Shriver persuaded her to buy a "hospital-green linen bomber jacket with puffy sleeves."
"She said, 'Oh, that's great dear,' " Kennedy told the gathering of 170, " 'but in my day we used to buy things that suited us.' "
Smiles. Laughter. Applause.
With an easy grace and humor befitting a woman accustomed to having the attention of a room, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis spoke of family, womanhood and the redeeming power of verse -- all themes that infuse her eighth book, "She Walks in Beauty: A Woman's Journey through Poems."
Kennedy's stop in Chicago at the Chase Tower, 10 S. Dearborn St., was part of the Chicago Tribune's ongoing series of conversations with members of the literary community. For future events, look here.
Freely flashing her well-known smile, Kennedy spoke of the strong influence her mother had on her love of poetry. As a child, she and her brother John Jr. copied down and memorized great poems.
"Poetry really was integrated into our family life," she said. Though she wasn't always the most willing pupil, she added, "it really was a great way of setting us free to discover what we liked. ... (Her mother) wasn't a great cook or sewer, this was perfect for our family."
Questions from the predominantly female audience ranged from curiosity about her father's poetic proclivities ("He was more into rhetoric and history, and my mother introduced him to a lot of poems.") to advice on how to live life and find balance.
When asked the origin of the anthology's title, she recalled a walk in the park with her husband in which they tried to think of a title that would celebrate women. They settled on the name of a poem by Lord Byron.
"She walks in beauty," Kennedy said. "And who wouldn't want to be described that way?"