It was a glittering event at America’s White House “without the ropes.”
In Washington idiom, “without the ropes” means a private, invitation-only event where the usual ropes separating tourists from portions of the White House are gone. Guests may wander at will into historic rooms, and even sit on the furniture in one of America’s most iconic structures where history is a constant shoulder-side companion. The second floor family quarters are off limits of course.
I had the honor of accepting an invitation to attend one of multiple social Christmas events there. It was one of those experiences of history you know you will remember all of your life.
Everyone asks me what I wore? A classic white nubby wool Chanel — style fitted jacket with narrow braiding and gold buttons, and a long matching wool straight skirt. I carried a Timmy Woods bag carved as a Santa face.
On a perfect, sunshiny, blue skies, cool temperature afternoon, we entered the southeast gate on 15th Street, passing through the colorful gardens to airport-like security, then giving our name to a man with a list, and showing photo ID. We passed along elevated walkways with more security checks at each point, to a large portico where we entered through an elegant tunnel of painted white tree branches. In a series of historic rooms on a “basement” or lower level, we browsed rooms such as “the Library” where President Franklin Roosevelt annually read aloud to his family “Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol,” and the Vermeil room where portraits of former First Ladies include glamorous Jacqueline Kennedy, who was instrumental in establishing the White House as a museum.
Up a stair to the ground floor, greeted at intervals by handsome representatives of each branch of military service, resplendent in immaculate uniforms, we came upon the “President’s Marine Band” in red and gold uniforms, playing Christmas favorites.
Taking a left turn down the White House main corridor, we entered the East Room, largest at the White House, where major figures of international stage have socialized. Portraits of President George and first lady Martha Washington looked down through chandeliers as we sampled myriad delicacies from a huge table — including the famous tiny lamb chops, peppermint cheesecake and more from the White House chef. A side buffet was a shrimp and grits bar.
The Blue Room was my personal favorite where the official White House Christmas tree decorated this year in blue and gold to parallel the room décor, reigned as did a large gingerbread replica of the White House.
Weeks earlier I had attended an annual public garden walk outside. It was fun now to look from inside, out of the same windows I had seen from the outside.
Mid event, Melania Trump greeted us with brief welcoming remarks. Her vision for the elaborate decorations was “classic Christmas décor,” which volunteers worked arduously to install.
About 4 p.m., we began heading toward the exits at the scheduled time. Aides handed each of us a beautiful color booklet about the decorations and history.
As we walked out the front gate, those who attended similar holiday events in several prior administrations, chattered that “this” event was the most elegant and well done of them all.
It was indeed, a wow!