All of the talk about the inauguration, the White House and just Washington generally had me reminiscing.
I’ve had dinner at the White House.
No, this wasn’t carrying my own sandwich and standing outside the fence. This was inside!
The event was a state dinner for the king and queen of Spain. King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia were the visiting dignitaries being honored.
Talk about “country-come-to-town” – we were just that!
This was way back in 1976; Gerald Ford was president. And I was married to Hubby #1, hereafter known as H1.
Here’s the background: I was at home one day when the phone rang. This was before Caller ID and such things.
I answered the phone. The caller said she was calling to invite me to have dinner at the White House.
Well, I did exactly what any sane person would do: I hung up the phone!
After all, this had to be a prank.
Maybe the White House folks at the time were somewhat used to not being believed; the woman called back.
This time I listened but still didn’t believe this was anything other than a joke. I was given some sketchy details and was told the invitation was directly from President and Mrs. Ford. Yeah, right, I thought. Anyway, I was given a number to call to let them know if H1 and I would be attending.
I promptly called H1 at work and told him about the call. He said to call back and tell the folks that we’d absolutely be there. I did.
An official invitation with loads of details arrived later.
We flew to Washington with our appropriate evening clothes. H1 had a tux; the only reason my gown was appropriate was because it was black – and black works anywhere, doesn’t it?
As the appointed hour neared, we hailed a cab to take us to the White House. We were let out at the gate we had been told to use. From the gate we walked in and toward the door we were to enter.
We passed lines of limousines. Yes, we were country-come-to-town. Apparently we were the ONLY people to arrive by cab instead of by limousine. Oh, well.
Once inside, we were awe-struck but tried to pretend not to be. We were right there with folks we’d seen on the news and in magazines. At least we were there together and could whisper our amazement.
That comfort was short-lived.
At a White House state dinner, spouses do not sit with each other. We weren’t even assigned to the same tables. I sat with Donald Rumsfeld. H1 sat with Coy Stennis, wife of the long-time US senator from Mississippi for whom the Stennis Space Center is named.
There were more courses of food than I ever imagined possible at one meal with printed menus at each place. Strolling musicians entertained us during the meal before remarks from the president and from the king.
The evening concluded with dancing.
Actually, our evening concluded with us walking back out to the gate and hailing a taxi – once again watching the limousines pass us by.