The world remembers the day when former US President Donald Trump broke decades-long convention of welcoming then-President-elect Joe Biden in the White House and immediately left for Florida to spend his days in his Mar-a-Lego resort after leaving his post.
It is an unimaginable sight today to see two rival political families coming together and exchanging poignant notes in times of need. We fear that what former US First Lady Pat Nixon "gifted" Jackie Kennedy after the assassination of John F Kennedy almost 50 years ago would hardly be repeated ever in the coming years of any presidency.
An unexpected visit
It had been eight years and quite a lot had changed when Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (name changed after her marriage to Aristotle Onassis in 1968) returned to Washington to visit Arlington, the national cemetery where her husband was buried.
It was a trauma in itself for her to return to the place where Jackie had spent days of happiness and grief, especially when she returned in bloodstained clothes after her husband was shot to death beside her in Dallas in 1963. "The thought of seeing the White House again" was painful, she wrote to First Lady Nixon in January 1970 who had proposed the former to visit her many times after President Nixon took over the power of the State.
A year later, she wrote, "I really do not have the courage to go through an official ceremony, and bring the children back to the only home they both knew with their father. ... With all the press and everything, things I try to avoid in their little lives," when Lady Nixon had asked her to attend a small ceremony to mark the hanging of the formal White House portraits of JFK and Jackie, painted by the artist Aaron Shikler.
But Jackie suggested a less public plan — "an alternative solution," as she called it in the letters and sneaked into the White House, along with her children, without any notice to the press.
A rare gift
It was her first visit to the White House after the death of her husband and one can understand the emotions and tenderness attached with the moment.
But all thanks to Lady Nixon, who had designed the plan so well that the press did not even get a hint that Jackie is back in Washington and will be in the White House to relive her good old memories with late husband.
Then, "perhaps any day before or after (the portraits were to be viewed publicly), at your convenience, could the children and I slip in unobtrusively to Washington, and come to pay our respects to you and to see the pictures privately?" she asked Lady Nixon through letters which are held at the presidential libraries of Richard M. Nixon, in Yorba Linda, Calif., and of Kennedy, in Boston.
Pat Nixon wouldn't have obviously held a big ceremony after reading the letter, "and the children could see their father's portrait in the rooms they used to know, in a quiet way," she wrote.
The untold secret
The Nixons had sent a special jet to pick Jackie and the children.
"My mother was determined that the visit be as private and as happy as possible," Nixon daughter Julie Nixon Eisenhower wrote in a biography of her mother, "Pat Nixon: The Untold Story", according to The Washington Post.
"Only four members of the White House staff ... [were] directly involved ... and they were sworn to strict secrecy," wrote Julie, who was 22 in 1971.
Wearing "a simple but elegant long-sleeved black dress," Julie remembered, "her face with its large, wide-set eyes and pale skin framed by dark hair was exactly like the photographs."
When the group went to view the JFK painting "Mrs. Onassis said nothing, except to thank Mother for displaying it so prominently," Julie wrote.
The portrait showed JFK with his head sunk deeply on his chest, his arms crossed, conveying dejection more than the sense of tragedy, as per reports.
A 'Thank you' to mark the end
The Kennedy children said they "liked it", and went on to see the Lincoln Bedroom next, while the two ladies quietly toured the state rooms.
The day after the visit, Jackie wrote to President Nixon and the first lady, "Never have I seen such magnanimity and such tenderness."
"Can you imagine the gift you gave me?" she said.
"To return to the White House privately with my little ones while they are still young enough to rediscover their childhood – I have never seen the White House look so beautiful. It was moving. It made me happy to hear the children bursting with reminiscences all the way home," she wrote.
"Thank you with all my heart. A day I always dreaded turned out to be one of the most precious ones I have spent with my children," and she concluded.