False Memory and Jackie Kennedy Onassis Stories

Stephanie West Allen turned me on to this entertaining video from Ira Glass’s This American Life Showtime series. It tells the tale of a guy whose wife experienced an embarrassing incident while waving to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis on the streets of New York City. In the story, the man is with his wife … but the punchline is that he wasn’t actually there. His memory of the incident is apparently false.

In addition to its being an amusing story, the video resonated with me both because I have my own (probably) false-memory story and a story of encountering Jackie Onassis on the streets of New York.

False Memory (probably): My parents were having a cocktail party when I was about 6. I got out of bed, went downstairs and outside, stretched my arms out and flew across our driveway. I was about 5 or 6 feet off the ground and did not swoop around but rather stayed at an even altitude during my flight. This memory had always been so vivid that my brain is convinced I really flew across the driveway.

Jackie Onassis: I was a young teenager, maybe 14 or so, and I was visiting my dad in New York City on Easter weekend. We were walking along Fifth Avenue during the “Easter Parade,” and my father turned to me after we passed someone and said, “Do you know who that was?” “No,” I said, “I didn’t see.” “It was Mrs. Onassis,” he said. My big chance at a celebrity sighting, and I hadn’t even been paying attention to people passing us!