Gone away

On April 19, 2013 by Eden M. Kennedy

Jack’s mom died this week. We hadn’t seen her for a while but we talked to her all the time — she loved the phone, loved to talk, she would gladly spend hours working over any little tidbit of news, gossip, or family history you gave her, thoroughly picking it apart until she was satisfied she understood it from every angle and was as joyful, angry, or bored with it as you were. So when Jack’s brother called with the news, it really felt as though a huge part of our world had been silenced in a profound way. Her voice is just gone.

I don’t think I posted about Barbara very much — a quick search yielded this weird little scene, and this one has a photo of her with the baby version of my husband — though I could have written whatever I wanted because she never owned a computer and no one on her side of the family seemed to notice what I was doing on the Internet. Because OH MY GOD THE STORIES about Barbara’s life. You can’t even imagine, I should just interview everyone who’s still alive and write a novel about her because no one would believe it if I called it nonfiction.

For now, I’ll just show you this.

bassman cover

Lillian Bassman was a fashion photographer famous for “furtive eroticism,” and Jack’s mom modeled for her occasionally. (Barbara made a living as a lingerie model both before and after Jack and his brother were born, which is a testament to her amazing genetics, as well as to having children when you’re 19/20 years old.) There are photos of Barbara floating around in a negligée; burying her nose in a huge, luscious rose while wearing a lacy black merry widow; or just standing there looking more relaxed than you’d imagine it was possible to be if you wearing a garment you needed at least two people to get you into.

I don’t know who’s going to get what photos — Jack and his sisters are down in Palm Springs right now going through her house and figuring out what will go where — but last year a book of Bassman’s photos came out and Barbara sent us a copy. She was proud of being included in the collection.

index photo


That was Barbara before she married Jack’s dad, walking around Manhattan looking like Grace Kelly’s little sister. I hope Jack manages to get the photo of her and Mickey Mantle at the Copacabana, or at least make a copy. That shit is historic.

Glamorous as she had been, she also loved her role as Jackson’s grandmother. A holiday never, ever went by without a card with $20 in it (in small bills, so Jackson wouldn’t spend it all at once), and I mean every holiday. Easter, Christmas, Valentine’s, birthday, St. Patrick’s day, Halloween. If we’d been slightly less pagan she would have sent cards for Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah, and Passover, too, like Jackson’s cousins got every year.

I’ll talk with Jack and see what he’d feel comfortable with me sharing on the Internet, but for now I’ll just leave it at this: she is deeply missed.



27 Responses to “Gone away”

  • It was your the mother-in-law who sent bagels from Zabar’s, right? Even if it was only little glimpses, you’ve painted a vivid picture over the years — I’m so sorry for your family’s loss.

    • Yes! So much Zabar’s! My arteries will now have a chance to recover, I guess.

      • I was in NYC in early April for spring break and thought of your posts about her when I ran over to Zabar’s for coffee and bagels.

  • I’m so sorry to hear this. Gorgeous photos. Thanks for sharing.

  • Write the book! My thought was about Zabar’s, too.

  • I’m so sorry. xo

  • I am so sorry for your loss. I have that gorgeous Bassman book. Those models are badass in their ultra-feminine ways. How wonderful to have those great memories of her.

  • THIS. THIS is a book worth reading and writing. Do this, please.

    In the meantime, may her memory be a blessing – z”l – I hope your family can revel in stories and that Jackson continues to learn about her. :)

  • Oh man, I’m so sorry. I hope Jack lets you share some more stories about her. She sounds amazing.

  • Touching words, stirring emotions, memories, and an offering of my thoughts and love to you all as you navigate this loss and transition. Thank you for taking me into my heart today, Eden.

  • I love that she was proud of being in the book, as I’m sure the social norm at the time was not as open. Sorry to hear of your loss.

  • Love to you and your family. xo

  • My condolences. And she sounds very interesting. I’d love to hear more.

  • So very sorry for your loss.

  • My condolences to you and your family. I read things like this and I think, yeah, there was something to the whole Tom Brokaw “Greatest Generation” thing. Our parents were awesome!

  • A lovely tribute. I worked for many years in nursing homes, and one of the things I loved most about being with those awesome old folk was seeing pictures from their youth (i.e., anything before they lived in the nursing home). There was just so much love, achievement and bad-assery to celebrate. Thank you both for sharing a slice of hers.

  • So sorry for your loss. Hoping to hear some of the stories.

  • Oh, I’m so sorry. What a gorgeous woman–she sounds amazing. My condolences to Jack and Jackson especially. So hard to lose a mother and a grandma.

    I am dying to know the stories. I love stories about people. Put them down somewhere–at least for Jackson.

  • I’m saddened to hear of your loss. She sounds like an amazing woman. A spitfire. A firecracker. All those wonderful words we didn’t get to use much about women of her generation.
    I, too, remember the little things you’ve shared and thank you for these additional glimpses.
    A book! Yes, please.

  • What a story.

    It is always so sad to me when someone passes. I think of all not said, all the history. My mother is in hospice, and I’m trying to write down so much. Because a life is so full of so much.
    I am so sorry for your loss. And I’d love to read more — we make her eternal when we read more.

  • I’m so sorry for your loss! Here’s to her memory living on in pixels AND your hearts.

  • wow, now that’s a mother inlaw. i’m sorry for your loss. from what you’ve previously shared – both of your parents inlaw skirted fame, your hubby was in music…and you seem like a regular girl, from a regular town, in the best way. it would be an interesting book.

  • I’m so sorry to hear this, Eden. Please give my best to your family.

  • Oh, I remember the Zabar’s gifts as well. But that was obviously barely scratching the surface of all that she was to you and your family. Please accept my condolences as well.

  • Write the Book. And i say that with all the understanding of how difficult that will be.

  • To Jack and family, I’m very sorry you’ve lost your mom. It’s a huge blow if you had a good one. Savor the memories. Eden, it sounds like you fully appreciated your MIL. Lucky you.

  • My condolences to you…Write a book to keep her memories alive…