Cokie Was Unique
September 19, 2019
I don’t remember exactly when we met. I arrived in Washington in 1961 immediately after college and went to work for her mother’s cousin, Howard K. Smith, the radio and television commentator. Cokie’s sister, Barbara, was my friend; Cokie was Barbara’s younger sister, still in college. I spent a lot of time that summer at the Boggs’ home and I must have met Cokie sometime that summer.
I read a lot of the obituaries published this week. I know what she meant to other people – wise political observer with unique perspectives particularly on Congress, feminist, brilliant journalist. But Cokie was my friend and what a friend Cokie was! She wasn’t like other people. She was Superfriend. She was more sister to me than friend. I know that many others feel that way.
Cokie and Steve have a huge circle of friends. We always spent Passover and Hanukkah at their home, always the same guest list augmented by the children of her friends and the friends of their children, gradually the grandchildren too. Anyone connected to her friends and family was welcomed.
There was always an outdoor summer party too. I think that one was created to feed friends the gifts of Steve’s garden.
Friends whose books got published could look forward to a book party arranged by Cokie and Steve held in their backyard where a tent had been put up and a caterer hired to feed people and a bartender to care for them.
She created a party for me and insisted that I invite everyone, practically everyone in the world to celebrate the Beard award to me; and then she had to miss the party because that was, I presume, when her cancer returned.
Cokie was the celebrant and caretaker of all her friends. If she hadn’t heard from me in a while she would check in to ask how I was. We’d make a date, a dinner at my house, a lunch somewhere in Bethesda, a little visit at the bakery.
When my sister was dying, she wanted to take care of me. I wrote to her, “No one is like you. No one keeps in touch as you do.” When my brother in law died she insisted on picking me up at the bakery and driving me to the synagogue.
At one of our lunches, Cokie suggested that we reach back to our youth and invite to my home all of our circle who had remained friends for 50 years, an anniversary party of our friendship. We did it.
This “swamp” for Washingtonians is not a vile place filled with “bureaucrats.” It is our home filled with people who devote their lives to serving the public and trying to make things better and writing about that. Now we have lost the person who understood all of that better than anyone, our homemaker.
Steve and Cokie were to have dinner at my home on Wednesday. By today she would have written, “What can we bring?”
I would have responded, “Don’t be silly. It’s what I do.”
She would have responded, “We’ll bring some squash. It’s weighing down Steve’s garden. And you could adopt my mother’s saying since it would suit you so, when asked what to bring she says, ‘Nothing but your own sweet self’. Give that a try!
As September changes to October we would have reminded each other that we were beginning our month of sadness, the month in which my sister died, in which her sister died, and in which her father’s plane disappeared in Alaska.
But Cokie now misses the month of sadness and leaves it to me.