Two days before the big day that often seemed as if it would never arrive and to many of us couldn’t come fast enough, President-elect Barack Obama and his family have officially moved into the Blair House in Washington, D.C. The celebrations have begun. If you’ve had the TV blacked out in the cave you live in the past week, just turn on any news channel and you’ll see what I mean.
I must say, as much as I’ve looked forward to that day, I’ve actually begun to feel a little bit sorry for the Bushes over the week, and a bit apprehensive about things going wrong for the president-elect. I keep remembering that morning in November of 1963, God forbid anything of that sort happens ever again.
As for the current President, it has to be some kind of Adjustment (yes, with a capital A!) no longer being the center of media and world focus, you have to move out of the most famous residence in the United States. But moving out with one of the lowest approval ratings in history makes it even more poignant. Especially if you happened to see any of his last effort at hurrah speeches in a number of television appearances over the last week.
You’ll forgive me, I know, when I explain that I’m just an old softie when it comes to finalities like that. Okay, I’ll admit that my eyes were dewey even on that afternoon in 1974 when Pat and Richard Nixon climbed slowly up that ramp to enter Air Force One for the last time. That dew actually started to gather thick enough to roll down my cheeks when he turned around to pause and wave goodbye. I thought it was appropriate that he go, but I sensed how much it meant to him to be the president. I’m no stranger to disappointment either.
Everything’s been said about Barack Obama that needs to be said, first black American and all that . . . but I’m excited for Michelle. Yes, I know she’s very well educated, a lawyer and all that, but she’s still a woman, and I don’t know that I’ve ever met a woman who didn’t look forward to moving into a new house, though I’ll concede there probably are some. Moving into a house where everything will be unpacked and put away for you can’t hurt the process either. What’s more, lunch will be waiting when they’re ready.
Every occupant of the White House has made their imprint on the west wing, ever since the first residents, John & Abigail Adams in 1800 when the Capitol first moved to D.C. Things have changed quite a bit. Abigail wrote that the unfinished mansion in Washington she moved to was habitable and the location beautiful, but lamented the fact that she couldn’t find anyone willing to chop and haul firewood for the First Family, despite the thick woods nearby.
Other imprints, Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter kept the earth-toned Oval Office decor chosen by his predecessor, Gerald Ford, thereby saving money by not redecorating even though it was pronounced homespun and dreary by those who notice such things. There have been complaints, too, all usually aimed at the First Ladies. At $210,399, Nancy Reagan’s china was seen as extravagant even though state dinners had previously been served on a variety of patterns because there wasn’t enough of one set to go around. (Those in the know say the dishes were privately donated, by the way.)
The Kennedy White House was critized as being too French, the Clintons’ too Arkansas, whatever that means. Only the Bushes, both 41 AND 43, suffered little criticism during their tenure, perhaps because of the focus had to be on all those wars and stuff, and–besides being the number one defender of “Dudya’s tenure,” Laura will be remembered as the First Lady who restored the Lincoln bedroom to the time of the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation that Lincoln signed there in 1863.
Michelle hasn’t said much about her decorating plans, though she and Barack both said they want to ensure that the White House provides a comfortable family atmosphere for their two young daughters. They’re also working on delivering their promised puppy for 10-year-old Malia and7-year-old Sasha, so perhaps they’ll want to hold off on new carpet for a few weeks.
Santa Monica decorator Michael Smith has been named to assist in the do-over, so that all Michelle will have to worry about now is making it all happen within the $100,000 budget allowed new occupants. As I understand it, that includes moving costs, too. Anything beyond that amount, and the Obamas will have to either hope for private donations or dig deep in their own pockets.
None of this has anything to do with me of course, except that Hubby has begun to entertain the idea of a visit to the east coast sometime in 2009, to visit old haunts and habits of ours as well as visiting various family members living thereabouts. Since I’ve never toured the White House despite several visits to the Capitol city, I said I’d like to go there since I refused to go while No. 44 was there. I want to see it this time if tours are still allowed.
Washington, D.C. is one of my favorite cities. Maybe by the time we get there, if we do, the re-decorating will be all finished. At least the right man will be living there with his family if all goes well. Cross your fingers that nothing happens to mess up the inauguration Tuesday. I’ll breathe a lot easier on Wednesday.