I was living in Greenwich Village alone with my sons, aged 3 and 5, while separated and with divorce papers filed. My older son was turning six. I asked him what he wanted for his birthday. He said, he wanted to go to Washington, DC. Where did this child come up with this? But I, as always, I endeavor, if I can to make it work.
I find a Marriott diagonally across from the White House for two nights..Friday and Saturday for the three of us to share at a great rate…with a pool. A must! I get all my details together….I am, after all, the Exec.Asst.to a Forbes 400…I’m resourceful. I get us our Amtrak tix, all necessary info, things to see, event times.
I tell my boss…Bernie Mendik, who at the time was very close with someone who raised tremendous sums for Bill Clinton. My boss made his own large contributions and made his influences too. So, Mr.M says, call Stan’s secretary and get a tour of the White House. I’m overwhelmed, thankful, delighted…anxious,shy and so excited!
I’m a nervous wreck but I’m organized. Backpacks…all of us..holding hands. Here we go. The boys loved the hotel. Of course, swim, swim, swim. This is ridiculous. I could have gone anywhere. Let’s get out of the pool. Early eve, we walk outside the White House, visit some things, eat and rest. Tomorrow, we get out group VIP tour!
We meet, as told, at a particular guard’s gate at the White House entrance at about 10:00/11:00. We are very casual…this is a group tour. I’m wearing a jean skirt, sneakers, a tee shirt,my kids are dressed similarly. The guard tells us to wait. A few minutes later, a Secret Service Agent walks us to a door into the White House….of course, after my credentials are verified….I am completely baffled. Where are the other people? This does NOT seem to be be a group tour, and I am literally trembling … my sons are just curiously looking around without a clue as to the magnitude of the moment. I am immediately aware that our appearance is completely inappropriate. Ok, ok, move on.
At the White House, a gentile man greeted us very formally, distantly, professionally and quite matter of fact. He simply walked us into a room and began telling us the history of the art on the walls…what First Lady commissioned it, about who bought the exquisite furniture,why it was called the”whatever” room. I was loving it. And the boys did not touch a thing, but the man talked for 20 minutes in room one, we walked in the hall to go to another room…and saw Checkers….but the boys shuffled and made remarks to each other. They were bored to death. Clearly, this friend of Mr. M had gained me a private one-on-one tour of the White House. Likely, once in a lifetime. But I could not disrespect or disgrace where we were or ourselves. I had to excuse us…I explained that my boys were young; that this was such an extreme gift and pleasure, yada,yada….and he at last showed emotion and said, of course. We are glad you came. Again, the Secret Service walked us to the gate.
Phew. We took a double decker bus ride, ate a lot of crap, went swimming more, and I just sat and tried to think whether or not the day just happened.