Tour diary: When Gal met Obama
Last year, we went to the White House Easter Egg Roll to do a final bit of research for Madeline at the White House and, frankly, it was miserable. It was too hot, Galatea was too young, and there were too many people. Going this year was better in every respect. Gal is still a little young to enjoy being in big crowds–or that’s just her personality–but she still went wild when she saw Elmo, Abby, and Rosita from Sesame Street all working the crowd. (She didn’t want them to touch her, but still.)
It was a thrill for me because I actually got to read Madeline at the White House at the White House. Or rather, on the South Lawn, where they had set up a storytime stage. The kids loved seeing the pictures of the egg roll, and I got a kick out of being able to point to the windows in the house where the action was taking place, and the Washington Monument when it comes up at the crucial moment of the story.
The real thrill, however, was meeting the Obamas. I had no idea it was going to happen–the schedule I was given said that there was a Meet and Greet, but I assumed that was just for the other people performing, which was cool enough. I figured if we were actually meeting the president, someone would have told me. But a little after nine, we were all rounded up and led into the White House.
Andromache and Gal and I had been there the day before for a tour of the West Wing, and therein lay the problem. Andromache had been prepping her for days. “What house are we going to?” she would ask. “White,” Gal would respond. “Who lives there?” “Rock Omama.” Gal kept it together great on the tour, especially when she got handed three boxes of White House red, white, and blue M&Ms, something she had never had the good fortune to sample. So now, when were were getting led into the East Wing, when Andromache asked, “What house are we going to?” Gal answered, “Candy!”
We made it just up the stairs to the ballroom where we were to meet the First Family when she started bawling. Every parent knows it: Why now? For god’s sakes, when you are the perfect angel for forty-seven out of every forty-eight hours, why now? “Candy! Candy!” she said. We let her down on the ground, and she made a bee line for the other side of the room, where the secret service agents were guarding the Obama’s entrance. We had to keep dragging her back wailing.
Andromache managed to calm her mostly, and we got into line, somewhere behind Geena Davis and Kelly Ripa, and right in front of Chef Marcella, whose son Fausto amused and calmed Gal. The Obamas came in the room with their dog Bo, his leash trailing behind. They began to meet and take photos with each group on line, and the move up seemed to take forever. The boy band Mindless Behavior were right in front of us, and Malia and Sasha gave them big hugs and said how great they were. Then it was our turn.
The president shook Andromache’s hand, then mine. Andromache said to Gal, “This is Barack Obama.” Gal shook her head no, pointed out the door, and said, “Rock Omama!” He laughed and said, “Oh yeah, he’s over there. I’m not Barack Obama–he’s that guy on TV.”
We then met the girls and Mrs. Obama, and were positioned for our photo, with Andromache next to the First Lady and me next to the president. It was shocking when he put his arm around me, and after a pause I figured I should do the same, although it was more like I put my arm around the air around his shirt. The photographer had to keep taking shots, because Gal kept crying, but she thought she finally got a good one. We’ll see in a few weeks.