The Day of the Presidents
Category: Slash, Humor, Drama, Holiday, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: Beyond the Series - February 15, 2016
Written: December 31, 2016, January 1, 2017, January 10-12,14-17,20-21,23, 2021
Summary: In their own special away, the Jackson-O'Neills take note of Presidents' Day while also honoring a man they never actually met.
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
1) Any line in italics is an actual quote and not written by the author of this fic.
2) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s): “Dig for Justice”
The Day of the Presidents
“Hey, folks,” Jack spoke from the center of the raised stage in the recreation room of his house. Behind him was a curtain so that the audience had no idea who or what was behind the general. “The kids decided they wanted to do something a bit different for this little family production. They wanted to entertain and to educate, and this is how they decided to do it.”
Before the curtain moved, Nine-year-old Aislinn stepped forward, standing next to her father. She was getting taller every day in Jack's opinion.
“Ash has a special dedication she’d like to make,” Jack announced. “Go ahead, Princess.”
Aislinn walked forward and spoke, “President Kennedy once said, ‘As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.’ I think it applies to more than thank yous, but to living our lives every day.
“This program is dedicated to Kunto. There’s no last name. He had one, but we don’t know what it was. All we know is that Kunto was the third born child to his parents in his homeland of Africa. We know he was captured by white men, chained, and inhumanely transported in a cargo ship as if he were cattle, maybe not even as well as that.”
Aislinn sighed as she recalled the man who must have had great strength to survive the strains of slavery.
“Kunto was taken to South Carolina. He was one of the first Africans to be purchased at auction. We know the amount paid for him. We know he married another slave and they had a daughter. We know that generations later, another daughter in a long line of daughters, found Kunto, a great, great … many greats grandfather to her. We know during his time in South Carolina that Kunto wasn’t happy. He remembered and longed for his place of birth; for his family. He was often beaten."
The Munchkin was in no hurry to rush through her dedication. She hoped her words were adequately expressing both her emotions about the slave and her disdain for prejudice of any kind. She gave the listeners time to process the information being fed to them before concluding her statement.
"Kunto’s family took him to their home where other ancestors are buried. He’s atop a mountain, surrounded by trees where the sunlight can warm the day. There are flowers all around. His descendants say they feel his happiness at finally being free from the plantation where even his name, the name of Kunto, was taken from him.” She took a deep breath and declared, “Kunto, tonight is for you.”
The audience was silent, not truly knowing how to react to the Munchkin’s passionate statement. Some applauded and others just waited for the program to begin.
The audience consisted of several neighbors, some of the Jackson-O’Neill extended family, a few friends, and certain J-O employees who were there when Kunto’s grave was discovered. The program was also being recorded so it could be sent to those near and dear who were not able to attend in person.
“And now, on with the show,” Jack spoke in an upbeat tone.
At that point, all applauded as the curtain was drawn to reveal the Jackson-O'Neill brood, all in unique getups, just as Jack and Aislinn were as well. The clothing indicated that various time periods were being represented.
Four-year-old JD, wearing a white-haired wig and farmer's overalls, bowed to the clapping crowd, causing his siblings to do a mixture of chuckling and eye-rolling.
“JD!” Jonny scolded. “You bow at the end. This is the beginning.”
“Oh,” the boy giggled with an unapologetic shrug. “I'm JD and ...”
“JD, no. You're in character,” Jonny whispered as softly as he could and still be heard by his youngest brother. “Do it how I taught you.”
JD nodded and began again, saying, “I'm Jimmy Carter and I used to,” he took a big gasp, “be President of the United States. A lot of Americans thought I was just a peanut farmer. They laughed at me.”
Behind the youngest child of Jack and Daniel, his siblings all cackled, waving their hands dismissively and letting out with mocking remarks.
“I laughed, too,” JD continued, “right to the Oval Office.” He turned around to face his detractors, put his thumbs in his ears, flexed his fingers as fast as he could, and, while swaying his butt, taunted, “Na na na na na!”
As the audience laughed wildly, JD turned back around and more seriously continued, “I believe in human rights and I fought for them during my time in office. People,” the boy gasped again, “remember I ordered the boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympic Games, dealt with an energy crisis, and negotiated the release of the I...I.. um, the ..."
"Iranian," Jonny called out, sighing as he realized everyone probably heard him.
"Yeah, the Iranian hostages," JD said, laughing at himself for a moment before continuing, "though the Iranians held their release until my successor was sworn in. Today I enjoy life with my love and partner, Rosalyn, and teach Sunday school.”
JD bowed, prompting the audience to clap, and then went to his seat located on the left side of the first row where he plopped down next to his grandfather.
Little Danny walked forward. His tall hat, black beard, and long tailcoat made it obvious to all that he was Abraham Lincoln. Just in case there was any doubt, the nine-year-old stood calmly and spoke some very familiar words that began with, “Four score and seven years ago.”
The boy genius had no problem delivering the short but effective speech President Lincoln gave at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863.
“That was only ten sentences,” the Munchkin told the audience, “ten of the most effective sentences in American history. I reinforced the principle of human equality stated in our Declaration of Independence and linked the Civil War to the struggle for human equality. It took me less than three minutes to express my thoughts on the subject. Some now call me an activist and give me credit for expanding the role of the President. They say I fought for a more perfect Union and that with Robert E. Lee's surrender and my ultimate demise, my legacy grew. I freed the slaves and let them be the men and women they were.”
“Here here!” came the cry of the brood from behind their brother. They raised their arms repeatedly as they chanted. Many phrases were tossed out, including, “We overcame,” “We're free,” and a more current, “We're still overcoming.”
Little Danny concluded, “It wasn't much of a Good Friday for me on April 14, 1865. I went to the theater and never knew what hit me. The Civil War was at its end and while I did not really want to go, I accompanied my wife, Mary, to the Ford's Theater. I held her hand openly as the crowd applauded us in the Presidential Box. I was laughing at a line in the play when a bullet penetrated the back of my head. Though my body lingered in life until the next morn, I was gone and my legacy was established. My assassination was an attempt to revive the Confederate cause. I am glad the conspiracy failed and that my last day on the Earth was a peaceful and happy one. The pain of the war was over and for the first time in a long while, I was cheerful. Maybe my gift for the ending of the war was to have one final good day with Mary and to die in merriment.”
Little Danny stood quietly for several seconds and then he smiled, bowed, and waved to those assembled before moving to the rear of the stage.
David walked forward. In addition to his glasses, he wore a self-adhesive mustache and a Fedora on his head. He had on a bush jacket, Jodhpur pants, boots, and a bandana tied loosely around his neck. A satchel with a long strap was draped across him.
“Don't confuse me with my cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who held the office of President years after me. He was the thirty-second man to govern our nation. I was number twenty-six. I was a Rough Rider, and ...”
“Wait a minute,” Aislinn interrupted as she walked forward, a stern expression on her face. “I know it's President's Day, but behind every President is a Mrs. President, and where would any man be without a good woman?”
“Or good man,” Daniel called out from the back of the stage, earning some snickers of approval.
“I'll second that,” Jack called out from the side of the stage where he was sitting on a stool.
The female Munchkin put her hands on her hips, mimicking her brother Jonny in some ways, and challenged, “Why isn't there a Mrs. Presidents' Day?”
“Abigail has a point,” Jennifer agreed as she moved forward in her stylish 1960's garb.
Respectively, the two sisters were dressed like Abigail Adams, wife of American founder, patriot, and eventual President John Adams, and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, wife of probably the most charismatic U.S. President ever, John F. Kennedy. Aislinn's outfit was taken from a portrait made of Abigail in 1876. She wore a long satin dress, garnet in hue, with a white lace shawl. She also wore the lace bonnet and scarf shown in the portrait.
“My husband and I shared thoughts on all things, including politics,” Aislinn proclaimed. “Our letters to each other have become famous. I sought his advice, and he sought mine, even though many ladies of our day were told to stay in the kitchen and have babies. Too many of our babies died. Our own Elizabeth was stillborn in 1777. We worked the farms when our men were gone, and we paid the price. Often, there were too many snowbanks between us, John and I. Contrary to the popular play, John was not obnoxious nor disliked. He was a man, a patriot, a leader, a husband, and a father. No, he was not perfect. His family, the kids and me, often came second to his tremendous drive to serve this nation, but he relied on me and our exchanges documented the American Revolution in a unique way. While he fought in Congress, I maintained the home front. We were a team. During John's presidency, I did not hide behind him. Many called me Mrs. President as a result. I advocated for women's rights, including property rights for married women, and John and I agreed that slavery was wicked. Where is my holiday?”
Aislinn curtsied and went to her seat on the other side of JD while Jennifer remained. The oldest Jackson-O'Neill child was proud of the outfit she'd sewn for the family's stage presentation. It was reminiscent of the gown the First Lady wore to a state dinner in 1961 and to a dinner while in India the following year. It was chartreuse, the shell top with crystal beads and sequins. The evening skirt was plain. She had on white shoes and held a simple white clutch in her hand. A diamond bracelet borrowed from one of her aunts adorned her left wrist. Her Aunt Janet helped to fix her hair so it was also a bit more in the image of the stylish icon.
“Abigail is right. We all do what we can for our situation. I have refreshments. Let's sit and talk while we enjoy some juice.”
There was some laughter at the offer of juice, but then coffee was naturally off limits for the children.
“What about us?” Jonny inquired. “Geez, I mean, I was the very first President. I'm George Washington.”
“Geez, who knew?” Jenny quipped from amid the crowd as she looked the little general up and down, her expression challenging.
Jonny stood up straight as if making a point that he was indeed the supreme commander of the country. Then his white wig slipped. Hearing the laughter in the room, his eyes looked upward until he realized the problem. Quickly, he readjusted the hairpiece and resumed his firm stance.
“Anyway, I was so popular, the public wanted to elect me again, but I refused. Our nation would not become a dictatorship or a monarchy. One man should do his duty, devote himself to his country, but two terms is enough.” The boy bowed his head and more solemnly spoke, “I owned a farm, Mount Vernon. I owned slaves. I put it in my will to release my slaves upon my death, but marriage interfered. My dear Martha did not agree with my views on slavery; thus, she freed only one when I died, though she released most of my other slaves a year later. Some say she was afraid they were trying to kill her while others claimed she was worried that spending money on the slaves was taking money away from the children.”
“You were our leader. Why didn’t you take a stance on slavery?” JD called out from his seat, after which he quietly returned to the stage via the back steps.
“Yes, I was weak there, but I did comment. I once said, ‘I never mean (unless some particular circumstance should compel me to it) to possess another slave by purchase: it being among my first wishes to see some plan adopted by the legislature by which slavery in the Country may be abolished by slow, sure, & imperceptible degrees.’” Jonny bowed his head with acted shame and remorse before admitting, “We should have listened to Thomas when he wrote his great declaration for our independence. We did not. I did not.”
“That’s our point,” Jennifer said. “You men have the power, but you do not always listen, not as a woman does.”
At the side of the stage, David let out a shrug over the presidential debate and quietly walked off stage, going around the back to rejoin his family on stage rear.
“And that’s where I come in,” Jenny called out from the audience. She stood, passing Jennifer who took her own seat in the audience a few rows back and on the aisle. On stage, Jenny announced, “I am Edith Wilson. Do you know me?”
“Wilson’s woman,” those in the stage rear called out.
“I was the first woman president of the United States,” Jenny stated with her head held high. “My husband, Woodrow, had a stroke in October of 1919. He was bedridden and unable to walk. I remained at his side, never wavering from my wifely duties, but more than that, it was I who ran the country on Woodrow’s behalf. I decided what he would or would not be told about the state of affairs in the nation. I was his steward, a vessel of communication between him and the other important men of the time. Some scoff, some discount my efforts, and some claimed I had ulterior motives.” She smiled, a big, broad expression. “Some completely believe I ran the nation. Did I? That is for history to decide. I simply stood by my husband. Sometimes, he listened to me.”
“I understand your hardship,” Chenoa said as she emerged from the back of the stage.
The girl wore a replication of the gown worn by Eleanor Roosevelt at the inaugural ball in 1933 when her husband was sworn into office. The slate blue silk gown was sleeveless and embroidered in gold thread with a leaf and flowers design. She could see the women in the audience really liked her costume, and then some chuckles broke out. She wondered if she'd torn her dress or was having some sort of gown malfunction.
"Noa, shoes," Lulu whispered from behind the curtain.
Chenoa looked over and saw her sister holding her white dress shoes, the ones that were chosen to be worn with the gown. Gasping, she looked downward and realized she was still wearing her sneakers.
"No one's perfect," the little dove ad-libbed, delighted by the laughter that followed. She shrugged in further acknowledgment of her faux pas and opted to simply continue with her role playing. “During my husband’s political career, I often gave speeches on his behalf and attended campaign events.”
“You were just a first lady,” came a shout from the rear that was followed by other accusations that Eleanor didn’t do anything special.
“Harry Truman called me the First Lady of the World. I do not believe that makes me *just* anything. I did create my own presence. I do not deny that. When Franklin was President, I held press conferences, hosted my own radio show, and wrote articles for newspapers and magazines. I would suggest that in the modern world, an active presence is not only desired, but required. I believe it was much appreciated when Franklin was in office. People wanted to hear from us, from both us, and it was a very difficult time for our nation. We were at war.”
“Oh, yes, war.” The comment came Ricky who was attired in a typical mid-1800’s suit. “I am a dark horse. I won the nomination of my party for President and then I won the election. Yes, I had to fight a war, the Mexican-American War that lasted two all-too long years, but we won, and when we did, America was stronger.” He paused and smiled with a calming casualness, something Aislinn had coached the boy in for days. “I had a goal and I promised the people I’d meet those goals in one term of office. I asked for a chance and they gave it to me.” The smile grew boastful. “And I did it, America. I am the only President to have stated out front what I wanted to accomplish and then did all of it.”
“What did you do?” someone at the back corner of the stage asked.
“Yeah, what makes you so great?” came another voice from the opposite side of the stage.
“I wanted America to grow, to extend from sea to shining sea.” Ricky laughed. “To be more specific, I wanted America to extend from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. During my term, America took over the Oregon Territory outright and we acquired Texas from Mexico, not to mention California and New Mexico. It was our manifest destiny to expand our land, and we did. You want to know what I promised the people?”
A myriad of yeses from the stage and participants in the audience rang out.
“This is what I said: ‘There are four great measures for my administration - a reduction of tariff, an independent treasury, settlement of the Oregon boundary, and acquisition of California.’ I did reduce the tariffs and I did create the Treasury Department, and as I’ve said, met my expansion goals. What’s more, I did not run for re-election, though by then, I was no longer a dark horse.”
“Who the heck are you?” came the insolent inquiry from Jeff, who stood on stage left and out of view of the audience.”
“See, no one knows,” Ricky lamented. “I am James Polk.”
“James, pardon me for interrupting, but is Sarah present today?” Lulu looked around and pretended to be embarrassed. “Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m interrupting your speech.”
“Bag of wind, best forgotten as most politicians should be,” Ricky responded. “Sarah regrets her absence. I must go to her now.”
Ricky bowed to Lulu and then walked off the stage and slowly out of the rec room. Of course, he actually returned, going through the living room to the front hallway and walking down it until he came to the alternate entrance to the rec room. He easily returned to his needed position at the back of the stage without being seen by the audience.
There were some oohs and aahs about Lulu’s red velvet red dress. It was a full length gown with puffed sleeves at the top.
On stage, Lulu advised, “My name is Dolley. I’m not that Dolly, the one with the big hair and big boobs.”
To illustrate her words, Lulu used her hands to run up and down her hair and then to make an outward half circle across her chest. The result was amusement in the crowd.
“And I don’t spell my name like her, either. My name is D-O-L-L-E-Y. You have to have that ‘E’ or it’s just no good,” Lulu professed. “Oh, forget the ‘E’ if you must. Those press boys and Congress and just about everyone else I know has left it out for most of my life, but I was born with an ‘E’ and in my heart, there’s an ‘E’ in my given name.” She sighed and then she lit up like a Christmas tree. Lulu bounced her hands off the side of her head, making her black curly hair stand out. “Don’t you love my black curls?”
The audience clapped.
“Dolley, the real Dolley,” Lulu said in a whisper, “had black curls, too, but not as much as mine.” She looked around, smiling at audience members which caused them to break out into mild laughter. She did some primping and showed off of the dress she wore. “Do you like this? I made it myself of curtains from the White House. There was a big fire and I saved them and made this gown.” Lulu grinned deviously. “Not everyone believes I made such a dress, but I did, and this is it.”
The crowd was charmed by Lulu’s performance and they clapped again at the notion of the dress being made from drapes.
“Carol Burnett looked good in her drapery gown, but she should have removed the rod,” Lulu joked about a famous skit from Burnett’s long-running variety show on TV.
Most of the crowd understood the joke, which received the loudest and longest laughter of the program thus far. Images of Burnett walking down stairs wearing the green velvet gown with broad white curtain rod across her shoulders flashed through their minds.
Waiting for the chuckling to subside, Lulu eventually continued, “Wasn’t James wonderful to accomplish all those goals of his in just four years. Awesome. His wife, Sarah, and I became very good friends near the end of my life. She’s a wonderful woman, very fashionable. Now my James, Mister Madison, was a bit older than I and it caused gossip almost everywhere we went, but you must understand our hearts understand each other.”
Jennifer whispered loudly so all would hear, “That last remark was an actual quote from Dolley Madison.”
“I do love a good party. Some considered me one of the great socializers. Do you know I even dared to invite members of opposite political parties to the same event? My, did that stir up talk, but it only shows that there is no reason why those with different beliefs can’t get together and have a good time.”
Applause broke out at the comment about bipartisan activities.
“Hey, Dolley, I’m hungry,” Jack called out while pretending to work his way through a crowd. The crowd were mostly his children and a few others brought up onto the stage for this moment. “Let me through,” he pretended to grouse. “My stomach’s growling.”
“Mister Marshall, is that you?” Lulu inquired, pretending to be courteous and yet uncertain of the man’s identity.
“Dolley, no games. You know it’s me. Where are your cupcakes?” Jack questioned looking all around and then, gaining a laugh, when he attempted to peek under the red velvet gown.
“Mister Marshall, how dare you!” Lulu responded in shock and annoyance.
“It was easy. A man gets desperate when he’s hungry. How about a donut?”
Lulu huffed in anger and spat, “I’ll have you know that I had nothing to do with those snack cakes. They took advantage of me.”
“Dolley, I can’t imagine anyone taking advantage of you.”
“I was dead and gone when someone decided to use my name, and not even include the ‘E’. I was a good cook, Mister Marshall, and in my day, First Ladies cooked and cleaned. I made delightful cinnamon teacakes.” She let out a longing ‘mmm’ as she closed her eyelids and pretended to smell the aroma of the pastries. “My layer cakes were much loved for their delicate texture.” With confidence, Lulu challenged, “And I bet you’d just die for some of my fairy butter. Look it up. It’s a must-have."
Snickers were heard among the crowd, and it wasn't unexpected. It was the double entendre that was only meant to be a descriptor. The brood knew the term in its negative sense from first-hand experience, when ignorant people would spat bad words at their parents. They'd learned then about the harshness of prejudice and how it touches the lives of the innocent. Older now, the kids saw the potential humor of this authentic Dolley Madison flavor. It was Jonny who suggested how his dad should respond.
Jack became the general, turning to face the audience and ordering, "Silence! Any more snickers will result in immediate KP duty, not to mention I'll knock your blocks off." He looked over at an amused Lou Ferretti and advised, "One more snicker from you, Ferretti, and I'll flatten you on the spot, and I can still strip you down to airman. Don't think I can't!"
Jonny's line and his dad's added remark to the SG-2 leader was a hit and elicited even more chuckles from those enjoying the presentation. Back at the rear of the stage, those with good hearing could hear a triumphant "Yes!" from the oldest Munchkin when the lines were spoken and well received.
After several seconds of amusement, Lulu continued, "I could go on and on and talk about my yummy gingerbread and refreshing strawberry ice cream, hand-churned, of course.” With a final huff, she concluded, “I do not mass produce powdery donuts and, while cute, I have never made processed pies in packages with pictures of Charlie Brown on them.”
“My apologies, Dolley.”
Lulu nodded politely and then quietly disappeared into the stage crowd, leaving Jack alone at the center of the stage.
“I’m still hungry, but I’ll find food later.” Jack stated, “Yeah, I know. I’m John Marshall and I’ve never been a president of any nation, but, and this is a big but.”
When Jack patted his behind, it drew more laughter, which he enjoyed.
“As I was saying, I was the Chief Justice from 1801 to 1835 and that’s something. It was me that made it clear that the Supreme Court was it. It made the legal judgments. No more arguments. I also made it clear about the balance of power between the feds and the states. There has to be a line and we must all understand where that line is. I made a lot of decisions that gave this country direction.” Jack laughed as if recalling something. “My good friend, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, from the early 20th-century Court, claimed my esteemed place in legal history was from timing. ‘Greatness consists of his being there’, Ollie said once.”
“Uh, Johnny, there’s food over there,” a familiar voice called out.
“Over there!” came an indefinite response.
Jack took off, not saying another word, which prompted some chuckles from the guests.
Then Daniel sprinted forward and joked, “I thought he’d never leave. He just talks and talks and then talks some more. That must be so annoying for his family and friends. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to talk so much that they just keep going and going. Wouldn’t that drive you crazy? I mean to have someone keep speaking for no reason at all?”
The giggles and chuckles broke out into a tremendous moment of jocularity as those gathered knew it was Daniel who was truly the talker of the couple.
Daniel laughed and conceded, “Okay, well, maybe I shouldn’t complain.” After a bit of levity from that line, he introduced himself. “My name is Joseph Story, and I was an Associate Justice from 1812 to 1845. Johnny got far more attention than I did while on the Court, but, if I do say so myself, I think I had a greater impact on the law than he did. It’s no secret I am more of an intellectual than Johnny and I had the better legal mind. Examples. One of my decisions established the Court’s authority over state decisions that involve federal law. Another set up modern corporations as legal entities. I’m pleased to remind people that it was I, Joseph Story, who declared the transporting of Africans across the Atlantic was illegal. Abolitionists loved me when I said slaves should be freed. They made a movie out of the decision, a Steven Spielberg movie.”
“Braggart,” Jack murmured from off stage.
Daniel looked over at where Jack was last seen and taunted, “Take that, John,” after which more merriment broke out.
Back to a serious tone, Daniel put forth, “I was the first Dane Professor of Law at Harvard University and wrote a three-volume work entitled, ‘Commentaries on the Constitution’. I fought hard to end slavery, but not only that, I wanted all women to be educated. It was their right.”
Thunderous applause was heard by all the females present, along with a few expressions of ‘ouch’ from the men who didn’t applaud and were gifted with punches in the gut from their significant others as a result.
“May I close with this little comment on our jurist system which must not be overtaken by relations in the political world or by the course of popularity. I once wrote, ‘Republics are created by the virtue, public spirit, and intelligence of the citizens. They fall, when the wise are banished from the public councils, because they dare to be honest, and the profligate are rewarded, because they flatter the people, in order to betray them.'”
“What did you say?” Brianna called out. “Can’t you speak English?”
“That was English,” Daniel replied.
“Not English enough for me. I’m just a regular woman. Don’t discount me, though, being regular doesn’t mean I’m not smart.”
“I’m sorry. I was carried away. I don’t even know what I just said,” Daniel confided with a shrug. “I think, I mean, I’m sure I’ve taken up enough time anyway. If you’ll pardon me.”
Daniel exited the stage and headed to the middle right of the audience where some people were enjoying the show. He sat down there for a few minutes before excusing himself to go back to the stage in time for the big finale.
Brianna was the most simply dressed of all the females on stage during the program. She wore wide-leg tan pants, a beige blouse, and a tan blazer. Around her neck was a white silk scarf that had spots of orange and brown colors. She wore a wig that was brown and styled in a seventies-style bob.
“Hello, I am Betty Ford. I was a First Lady, but that didn’t stop me from getting breast cancer. I fought that disease and I talked about it openly and candidly, which was off-putting to many during that era. Women need to be in control of their health, and breast cancer should never have been unmentionable. I had a mastectomy, and I encouraged other women to speak up. There was no shame. There is no shame now.”
Several in the audience clapped in agreement and awareness.
“I supported equal rights for women, abortion, and many other things. My point is that I was not silent. I spoke out on all the issues of the day. I was free with my opinions.” Brianna paused in contemplation. “Perhaps my greatest legacy is the creation of the Betty Ford Center, originally called the Betty Ford Clinic. I am an alcoholic and I was dependent on opiod analgesics from a situation with a pinched nerve. I didn’t like the analgesics, but I did love to drink. Geez, the alcohol was mmm good." She lamented, "It got out of control, and I lost my way, but my wonderful family staged an intervention, and I was returned to health. Now the Center helps others. It was a huge struggle.”
“But you beat it, Betty, and we all applaud your bravery,” Jeff said, smiling and motioning for the audience to join him in clapping as he crossed the stage to stand beside her.
Jeff was wearing a navy Brooks Brother’s slim suit with a striped tie, collar pin, and white linen pocket square. As he stood, he kept smiling and acknowledging the guests.
“Thank you.” Brianna looked at the audience and casually waved as she called out, “Goodbye. Enjoy yourselves.”
Jeff clapped a bit more and waited for Brianna to exit from view, after which he turned to the crowd and said, “This has been a wonderful evening. Jackie and I are grateful to be here.”
That’s when folks realized Jeff was portraying John F. Kennedy. All eyes were on the oldest of the Jackson-O’Neill children as he used his best Bostonian accent in his role.
“This evening is not about politics; rather, it’s about this great nation and all that we have achieved and all that we will achieve in the future.” Jeff looked down as if handling notes. “My father had a dream, but it was more than that. He had expectations, and in my family, you didn’t buck those expectations. Father decided that his son, my brother, Joe, would become the first Irish Catholic President of the United States. He molded Joe to fit the part.” As he continued, Jeff let his voice quiver for the first few words. “And when Joe was killed in the war, my father’s dream went to me. You can’t say ‘no’ to Dad.”
There was a pause, but no one made a sound. Everyone waited.
“And I was President. Maybe I messed up with the Bay of Pigs, but I had dreams, too, dreams of democracy throughout the world. Someone earlier mentioned their legacy. I thought mine might be Civil Rights. My brother Bobby and I did our best in a very troubled time. Too many still believed that those with black skin were inferior and should be segregated from them. That was not my belief and I tried to do what I could while keeping our country from falling into a second civil war. I would have liked to have done more and perhaps be remembered for it.” Jeff chuckled, “Apparently, America had different ideas. They recalled my time in office for the space program and my desire to reach the moon before the Russians did. We did it, but it amazes me that seeing men, Americans, walking on the moon became boring in a very short time after that first eye-catching moment. I don’t see how that could have happened, but it is my hope that we will return to the moon, and go to the other places … out there, to learn, to explore, to make new friends.”
There were some secretive smiles at the subtle reference to the Stargate.
“I did learn one very important lesson in the White House: you know nothing for sure except the fact that you know nothing for sure."
More laughter ensued.
“I was not a perfect man. Let’s be clear on that. I made mistakes. I hurt my wife.” Jeff looked over at Jennifer, who was still in her Jackie character as she sat among the audience. “I am not proud of my behavior, but the good news is that human beings are very forgiving.”
“That they are, Jack,” Jennifer called out as she stood and took to the stage. She reached out and let Jeff take her hands in his. Their profiles were now primary to the audience. “We would have made it, if not for that day in Dallas.”
“We were together that day in ways we hadn’t been for a couple of years.”
“Since the beginning, Jack,” Jennifer corrected with a pointed stare.
“I do love you, Jackie. You gave me four beautiful children.” When some murmurings were heard, Jeff turned back to the crowd and opined, “When you live in Heaven, you are reunited with those lost to the Earth. We have four children. I suggest we go see them now.”
“Yes, Jack. We’ve spent enough time here. It’s time to go home.”
“Come home, Mommy.”
“Come home, Daddy.”
“Hurry up. We want to go sailing in the clouds.”
The four voices came from the side of the stage, the children speaking the parts blocked from view by a curtain. The speakers were all friends of the family, eager to have a small part in the performance. One child voiced Caroline, another John, and a third, Patrick, the baby who died tragically from complications of birth. A fourth girl was the voice of Arabella, who was stillborn in 1956.
“Go to your children,” came a cry of joy from the back. It was Aislinn who again walked to the center of the stage and looked out into the audience. “We hope you’ve enjoyed our program this evening to celebrate President’s Day.” She waited for the applause to die down before continuing. “We want to close with a song. Some might not think it’s appropriate for us, as a Caucasian family to sing, but we believe it is. You see, all of us have overcome battles in our lives and many of us are still trying to overcome obstacles. This year especially, it’s important to us to share the dream, the dream of Joseph Story, the hope of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and the dream of a great man named Martin Luther King, who unfortunately couldn’t be with us tonight.”
A few chuckles rang out, causing the Munchkin to pause before continuing. She was about to speak again when she was stopped in her tracks.
Without expectation from the crowd, one last surprise guest appeared. The portrayal was performed by Tootie Oliver, an African-American girl who was the same age as the Munchkins. In fact, she and Jonny were the subject of plenty of gossip as their relationship continued to blossom. The triplet cared about Tootie a great deal and he was challenged by her ability to see right through him and sense how he truly felt about things and not always buy into what he presented on the surface.
Tootie wore a country petticoat on top of which was a plain tan and white dress, tattered from wear. She had on a white bonnet and an apron from the waist down.
"You all not gonna know me," Tootie called out with attitude. "I see ya all there, laughing at your President, forgiving him for his sins, and moving on with your party. Good for all of you."
Tootie walked around the stage as if she owned it, something she was instructed to do by Jeff and Aislinn.
"Ain't you pretty, Missy," Tootie said to Aislinn.
"We're doing a program," Aislinn stated.
"Ya didn't invite me, but I's just a slave. Y'all know what a slave is? Wes do your dirty work. Wes feed your bellies, cleans your houses, and takes care of your babies, even the ones we have because of the masters."
There was an audible gasp at the comment, a subject definitely not addressed in the program until now.
"It had to be said 'cause you all know it happened, don't ya?"
A smattering of applause meant to affirm the assertion was heard.
"My name be Sylvia Cannon. I's nothing but a babe myself, born into slavery, when a babe was put into my hands and I was told not to let her move. That's right. A babe tending to a babe: that was me. What yous all needs know is about slavery and the auction block your peculiar institution enjoyed. Now y'all listens and this is truly what I, Sylvia Cannon, saw. I wrote it down for folks, so listen as I tells ya what I wrote. This is it: 'I see 'em sell plenty colored peoples away in them days, 'cause that the way white folks made heap of their money. Course, they ain't never tell us how much they sell 'em for. Just stand 'em up on a block about three feet high and a speculator bid 'em off just like they was horses. Them what was bid off didn't never say nothing neither. Don't know who bought my brothers, George and Earl. I see 'em sell some slaves twice before I was sold, and I see the slaves when they be traveling like hogs to Darlington. Some of them be women folks looking like they going to get down, they so heavy.'" That how it was, the whites buying the blacks. Now, you finish your show, but don't you never forget the truth. Truth must never be lost and truth must keep prejudice from existence. I be done now."
Tootie walked purposely towards the back of the stage as a thunderous amount of applause rang out. People began to stand until everyone in the crowd were on their feet.
"Tootie, take a bow," Jeff urged, almost pushing her back to the front of the stage.
Hoots, hollers, and whistles soared through the room when Tootie reappeared. She grinned, waved, and curtsied.
Meanwhile, behind the stage, on the floor of the rec room, “Brianna waved anxiously as she urged, “Dad, hurry it up, will ya?”
“Come on, Dad,” David added, glancing back at Tootie and Aislinn and realizing time was wasting.
“I’m hurrying, for crying out loud,” the general insisted as he made a quick costume change, hopping up and down as he finally was able to get his costumed shoes off and put on the shiny black shoes needed for his next bit.
The father was almost done when he put on his jacket. He flexed his shoulders as he tested the fit.
“Button it,” Brianna ordered, motioning to the jacket.
“Good thing I skipped that midmorning snack,” Jack teased, thinking he needed to lose a pound or two since the jacket felt somewhat snug to him.
"Tootie Oliver," Aislinn announced, certain not everyone present knew the Oliver family. “Thank you again, everyone, for coming and now, please join in with us to sing our finale. If you look around, you'll see several of our extended family holding up big signs with the lyrics. Thanks to them for helping us all sing this powerful song.”
On cue, several of the surrogate Jackson-O'Neill relatives stood and walked to pre-selected designations surrounding the audience. Everyone who wanted to see the lyrics could.
The audience was surprised when the rest of the Oliver family (Carl, Rayna, Cliff, Julie, and Vanessa) suddenly stood up and began to sing, “We Shall Overcome.” The voices of this proud African-American family blended well. They sang the first verse together, joined by Tootie near the end of the verse when she ran down to stand beside them.
Then there was an unanticipated sound, a new voice that came from Jack, now attired in his dress blue Air Force uniform. He held his cap in his hands as he sang loud and proud. Still singing, he walked off the stage to the Oliver’s where he shook hands with Carl, kissed Rayna on the cheek, and ran his hands through the hair of the children. Then he put his arm around Carl and continued to let his voice, and theirs, be heard.
Those on the stage began to sing as well. As the voices soared in unity, Jack and the Olivers joined the others on stage, noticing that many in the audience were singing the song, too. Near the end, Jonny walked over to Tootie and took her hand which he continued to hold until the song was over The move wasn't planned; rather, it was a spontaneous action, spurred on by the inspiration of the song and the passion of the evening. He felt happy when Tootie looked at him and smiled. She squeezed his hand gently, causing Jonny's grin to grow.
Two other guests were waved up onto the stage, and Preston and MariBelle Abbot happily joined their friends. This was the couple who several years earlier hired J-O Enterprises to excavate buried slaves in a quest to discover their identities and build a memorial in their honor. The memorial, a park-like structure of benches surrounded by flowers, was finally completed and the Jackson-O'Neills hoped to visit it soon.
As everyone continued to sing, Preston whispered to Aislinn, "Miss Graves arrived late. She's there, in the third row."
Aislinn gasped and surprised her family when she ran off the stage, still singing. She approached Galinda Graves, a descendant of the slave who tugged on the hearts of not only the Jackson-O'Neills and the Abbots, but the entire crew of J-O Enterprises who were present at the 2010 dig.
"Miss Graves, please come up and sing with us." Aislinn took the woman's hand and gently tugged on it. "I'm so glad you're here."
The African-American woman, dressed as finely as she was upon first meeting the Jackson-O'Neills, stood up. She embraced Aislinn tenderly.
"Thank you for inviting me."
"We didn't know if you'd come," Aislinn confessed.
"I almost didn't, but I had to see in person what you were doing to honor my many-times over great grandfather."
Aislinn was still singing and smiling as she lured the woman to the stage. Galinda was somewhat overwhelmed by the many hugs she received from the family, even as they continued to sing full force. She paused only one more time as she looked at the Abbots. With a nod, she embraced Preston and then MariBelle. She then turned to face the audience and joined hands with Preston on her left and Aislinn on her right.
When the song was over, it was ended by a powerful chorus that included everyone in the Jackson-O'Neill home.
It was Aislinn who came to the front to officially close the program with a special message for all.
"Wow. We weren't sure Mister and Mrs. Abbot would be able to be here tonight, and we were afraid Miss Graves couldn't make it, either." Aislinn wiped away a joyful tear as she looked back at the three adults. "This means so much with you here tonight. I know you came a long way for a short program, but thank you. Thank you so much."
Most of those present didn't know who the Abbots and Galinda Graves were, but the extended family of the performers knew as well as a few select others. After the program, it was Aislinn's hope that everyone would get to know these three very special people. For now, the Munchkin knew she needed to move forward with the program. She took a big breath as she regrouped, setting aside her happy emotions for the serious message she needed to deliver.
“Please remember, people are people,” the Munchkin asserted, looking over at her brother, Jonny, who clearly recalled the time when he first learned about slavery and could only relay his confusion by saying, “People are people.” Aislinn looked out at the crowd. “Let us utter good words and do good works to make our country great where it counts because people are truly just people. We are both different and alike, but we are united in our humanity. Thanks again for coming. Refreshments will be ready in a jiffy.”
Once again, applause broke out and the crowd stood.
Aislinn looked over at the special guests and let her smile broaden as they nodded their approval and clapped. The program was a success, pleasing the lovers and their brood and greatly touching all, especially Aislinn.
"Oh, one more thing," Aislinn called out as her focus returned to the crowd. "You don't have to sit down again, but we wanted to remind you about Operation Justice for Slaves that Dad started after we discovered Kunto's grave. It's a co-op, sort of, but it's a non-profit organization to help find slave graves, try to identify them, and then give them a decent burial with a plaque."
From the other side of the room Jonny held up a stack of papers in his hand and called out, "We have fliers on the table with the refreshments if you want to take one home to read. It's a good read. Remember, I, George Washington, do not tell lies."
Hearing a mixture of laughs and groans in response to her brother's remark, Aislinn concluded, "Please give, if you can."
"Where's the pot?" Hammond, who was still seated, called out.
"On your lap," Aislinn mused.
"Fork it over, people," Hammond urged in a loud voice to the attendees as he held up a literal black cooking pot.
The crowd began to mill around, some heading straight for the refreshments, some simply mingling with other guests, and some putting cash and checks into the pot being held by the brood's grandfather.
With the crowd going about its business and her family at the refreshment table, Aislinn paused and looked back at the now-empty stage.
“I hope you liked it, Kunto. We haven’t forgotten you. Remember, I promised, and a Munchkin promise is forever.”
As she turned, the Munchkin heard a chant and the sound of a drum. She didn’t know or understand the chant, which seemed to be in another language. She looked all around, but couldn’t find any explanation for the noises she’d heard and from looking at all the people standing around, no one else seemed to have heard the sounds. She heard the drum again. She recalled hearing these same sounds years before. They filled her heart with gratitude and joy.
“Ash, come on. Help us, please,” Brianna called out.
“I’m coming,” Aislinn answered. She took one more look at the stage and smiled as a realization hit her. “Thank you, Kunto.”
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