Tuesday, October 12, 2010
The White House
For the past couple of months I've been in communication with my Member of Congress trying to arrange for a tour of the White House for my family during our trip to Baltimore and Washington. I've been anticipating it with some anxious fervor I must admit. Our scheduled time was at 8am today. We got up very early, made even more difficult by the fact that we haven't adjusted to this time zone. Normally a three hour difference isn't a big deal, but with small children it's an issue. My son and and I wore ties, he in a blazer and me in a suit. The ladies wore dresses and pretty shoes. We ate breakfast at our hotel and arrived about a half hour early. It was important to me to not be harried and especially to not be that American family on vacation in togs that I would not wear to mow my lawn. We weren't the only family to take some care with our dress, but we were in the minority to be sure. In and around the White House people took notice of us. There didn't seem to be any judgment, but it struck me that a family dressed semi-formally is so outside of the norm.
The tour itself was fine. Limited to the social areas of the East Wing, there was much talk of wallpaper, chandeliers and paintings. It was all very beautiful and if I tuned into C-Span more often I would probably recognize the rooms we visited more readily. Our guide was a Secret Service agent that was very articulate and took great pride in his presentation. I was a history major in college and have always had a fascination with the Presidents. His many anecdotes were familiar and I enjoyed seeing all the original paintings. All but George Washington lived there over the years. (Washington was instrumental is the design and location of the residence however.) Yet, it seemed more museum like than haunted with their presences. I didn't really get the sense of the many great men and women that have lived and visited the White House. Maybe it was the ropes cordoning off all but passageways through the rooms and the many tourists, orderly but numerous.
I was impressed by the view of the south lawn from the Blue Room, the oval room whose shape is said to be suggested by George Washington so that no one could hide in its corners and the model for the Oval Office in the West Wing. We exited out the main door under the north portico. I had a feeling of elation as we did so and also an exhale of all the expectancy and anxiety I've been experiencing. Because of all the anticipation this is likely one of those experiences that will reveal itself to me over time. I've learned not to be too critical of my adventures that were fraught with angst as they approached. That written, I realize that I was present for our visit, so there's an even better chance that the experience will unravel for me over time.
Or perhaps it was no big deal and I'm just hopelessly middle-class.