October 11, 2016. That date is one for the history books in my little world because that was the day I got invited to The White House and met the First Lady of the United States. Crazy, right?
When I was little, I got to tour the White House with my family on one of my dad’s business trips. Even back then, I was the same history geek that I am now so I was utterly fascinated by the all the famous rooms we got to see on the tour, and the stories behind each one. I felt like I was on top of the world after that experience. Never would I have thought that I would be visiting again some 20 years later (wow, I totally just dated myself there…but wait…there’s more…).
If you are planning a trip to Washington D.C., don’t miss out on a White House Tour! It will take some planning and time but it is doable and very worth it. This site has tons of info!
For this recent visit, I was invited by my friend Andra Day to attend the premiere of the film We Will Rise: Michelle Obama’s Mission to Educate Girls Around the World. It is a wonderfully, powerful film that relays the benefit and importance of educating girls, and shares the struggles and accomplishments of girls from developing countries around the world as they fight for educational freedom. Andra’s Song “Rise Up” is featured throughout the film and she performed it at the event. If you have not heard of the talented songstress Ms. Andra Day, go to iTunes and download her album Cheers to the Fall. You are welcome. 🙂
This experience of course was completely different than the one I had touring as a kid.
There was a background check before I even got approved to be a guest, the ID check once we arrived at the gate, the security dog check (which I mistakenly for some reason thought that it would be the First Dogs Bo and Sunny sniff checking us but it turned out to be huge, scary German shepherds of course), and a second ID check followed by a metal detector once we passed the gate. I don’t really remember going through such a thorough security search back when I first visited. Sign of the times?
Once we got in, Andra did her sound check while we watched everyone work to put the event together. It was so organized. I was amazed at how well everything came together. If there was a hitch..I definitely couldn’t tell.
After sound check, me, my friend Josh (Andra’s brother), and Dave (Andra’s guitarist) sat around for a while not really knowing what we should be doing. Should we follow Andra to her dressing room? Should we be somewhere out of the way? We were also getting hungry. We were up since 8 AM and it was almost 1 pm and of course running around getting ready we hadn’t eaten anything. My fruit Mentos mint supply was slowly dwindling between the three of us. I kept texting my fiance that I was hungry and maybe I should go look for the head chef at the White House, Ms. Cristeta Comerford. She is Filipino, and Filipinos never let their guests go hungry! At least that’s how my Filipino grandma raised me. 🙂 Anyway, we started wandering around and the nice lady that had escorted us into the White House informed us that we were invited guests and were free to join the other guests at the reception. Where there was food! Hallelujah!
After we joined the party, the whole experience was truly amazing. The food was exactly what you would expect to be served at the White House. Beautifully presented and very delicious. My favorites were the lamb, the fresh salad, sweet cornbread, and the vast array of desserts! I could not stop eating the red velvet cake bites. The drinks were free flowing but were of the non-alcoholic variety. I never found the table of the other variety. The atmosphere was festive and I felt very official and…..important. So weird.
Of course you can’t go anywhere that serves you tons of food and drinks and not check out the bathroom .Just like you can’t be Jamie Beth Laird and not have some sort of mishap during an important event. Which of course I did, in the bathroom. I guess my skirt shrunk or I got bigger during that short bathroom visit because when I went to zip my skirt closed some seams decided they did not want to stay in place. I heard a quiet “rip” sound and the bottom of my skirt sort of gathered together after I got the zipper up making it look like I had a wedgie! It was so weird and inconvenient and I tried my best to fix it quickly without looking like I was reaching up my skirt. Josh told me, it was “..not really noticeable and at least nothing private was showing…and guess what…we are about to meet Mrs. Obama!”
I was so excited and nervous that I temporarily forgot the skirt debacle as we were ushered into a separate room for a meet and greet with Michelle Obama! We had to have all of our stuff taken away like our purses, loose jackets,and our cell phones. I cried at little bit when they took my phone (aka my life line) but they assured us that our photo would be taken by a White House official. Then we stood waiting to be announced to the First lady. She was radiant when she walked in and very warm and friendly. We were announced as “Andra Day and Family.” When Andra introduced me she said , “This is Jamie, my best friend of 20 years, ” Mrs. Obama said, “Hi best friend, it’s so good to meet you, Jamie!” I just kept smiling and shook her hand. They took our photo and Josh quietly reminded me to face forward so that my skirt malfunction wouldn’t be visible to the camera. Then Mrs. Obama thanked us for visiting her home, and said, “I’ll see you all in a bit.”
Totally surreal and an honor. I had to snap a photo of Josh, me, and our “We just met the First Lady” faces.
After that, all the guests gathered to watch the film, and Andra and Dave beautifully performed, “Rise Up” for us.
Then as the event ended we all had flights and trains to catch so we said goodbye to the White House and raced out of there. I barely made my flight only having 5 minutes to spare before the gates closed. You would not believe the amount of anxiety I had ! I’m by no means an early or even on-time person in my day to day life ( a bad trait, I know) but I am ALWAYS early for a flight, so I was thanking every higher power that I made the flight and was on the way home. Andra Face-timed me to make sure I made it ,and said her and her crew missed their train (not surprised :-P) . We chit-chatted about how surreal the night had been. It was a memorable night! Still waiting on the White House to send us our photo though….