Oprah: I remember being at the compound once, early on in our friendship. As an outsider, I thought, "God, I'm actually here on the lawn with all the Kennedy cousins." But the games never ended. I'll never forget being in the house and someone saying, "Where is she? Oprah, we're starting another game!" And I ran into a closet and closed the door because I'd already done three games—enough! It was all very intense.
Maria: It still is! It's competitive when you walk in the door. It's competitive at the table. It's competitive on the playing field. It's competitive in a boat. Even my mother is very competitive at everything—from checkers to Ping-Pong to sailing to politics. When I was a girl, she'd tell my father, "Tackle her as hard as you tackle the boys! Knock her down!" She'd tell him to serve the tennis ball at me as hard as he could. I couldn't even return it—it would knock the racquet out of my hand. I thought that was cool. No other mother I knew was doing that.
Oprah: One of my favorite stories about your mother was the day I ran into her after the tsunami in Southeast Asia. I was on vacation and going to my boat on the wharf, and she waved me down. She said, "What are you doing out here on a boat? You and Maria need to call Teddy and form a committee to raise money. We've got to do something!" I said, "Okay, Eunice; it's good to see you." The next morning, she took a little boat out onto the water to find me! I was told, "There's a woman out here who says she needs to talk to you." I said, "Okay, I'll call Maria when I get home."
Maria: My parents' vacations were working vacations. We visited Special Olympics events, Peace Corps volunteers, prime ministers, and priests. They'd be trying to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Christmas.
Oprah: What was it like at your dinner table every night?
Maria: "What did you do today?" "What did you read?" "What do you think?"
Oprah: That obviously had its positive effects.
Maria: Yes—it drives you. But if you're moving all the time, you're not stopping to be or think or experience nature. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine who'd worked his whole life bought a loft in New York and fixed it up. It was serene and peaceful. He said, "When I go there, I feel like I'm on a honeymoon with myself." I mentioned this to my parents, and they said, "What is the point of that? What are you doing to make the world a better place by going on a honeymoon with yourself?" They didn't get it. After I wrote my second book, I saw my father at the Cape. He said, "What are you doing with yourself?" I said, "I just wrote a book." "But you did the book already," he said. "That's over. You need to do a new thing."
Oprah: Does that make you feel like it's never enough?
Maria: Yes. When you come from a family that has achieved so much, you're left with the challenge of either making peace with that or finding some way to do what you want to do. It's impossible to compete with that level of accomplishment.
We Hear You!