Never be afraid to get dirty, but be sufficiently sure-footed to avoid the abyss of contamination.

The Wife of Medford’s Prologue and Tale

The woman sitting next to me was from Medford, OR. We had exchanged pleasantries during most of the flight. This was her first time flying in years. She was headed to Glen Ridge to visit her son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren. With one hour to kill before the plane landed, we started up a conversation. It turned out she had a lot to say.

The Wife of Medford grew up in Hartford, Connecticut in a large Italian family. Her grandfather used to tell her stories of the Mafia. She suspected he was involved in some way. Her grandmother made the most amazing spaghetti and meatballs but never passed down the recipe. Grandma and Grandpa lived in a big house, and dinners there turned into large family get togethers. Regretably, she never learned to speak Italian although she could follow the conversations at her grandparents’. She eventually married a man who didn’t speak Italian either and without a large house to organize get togethers, her family contacts dwindled down to select relatives. Her son went to Georgetown and Northwestern, and he was a commencement speaker at the latter. She had tried college for a while herself but money was tight, so she couldn’t finish. She and her husband eventually divorced, but she now had a boyfriend in Portland. She was thinking of moving there.

This information was just the prologue to a tale of how Bobby Kennedy spent a few days at her house. It happened during a campaign stop. Years earlier, the Wife and her then husband became involved with the DNC after meeting JFK during his 1960 campaign against Nixon. The Wife’s picture was in the paper, showing his hand pressed against a glass window and her waving from the other side. The Wife and her husband rose through the ranks of Oregon’s branch of the DNC and during Bobby Kennedy’s campaign in 1968, they were selected to host him during his stop in Oregon. Going beyond simply using this house as a place to rest his eyes, Kennedy spent time with their family. He was great with their children, and they spent one night staying up and just talking to him about his life and experiences. Unfortunately, Bobby’s assassination hit her family hard, and they ended their involvement with the DNC after her husband’s term expired.

In The Canterbury Tales, the Wife of Bath has a prologue that is twice as long the her tale. In my personal collection, the Wife of Medford and I talked for about 40 minutes before she mentioned the Kennedy story. The Wife of Bath’s Tale had a happy ending. As the plane was landing, the Wife of Medford told me she was thinking of getting involved in political campaigns again. She wasn’t going to let a bad experience prevent her from doing something that had brought her so much happiness.


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