Road Trip: Inauguration.

It’s been years since my mom and I have had a good reason to take a road trip. But last Saturday to pay homage to our 44th president-elect, my mom flew from Florida to New York and together we packed up my Mini Cooper with cocktail dresses, snow boots and Starbucks lattes and drove to Washington, DC, to brave the cold, the crowds and to witness history.

 

For the record, I am not an Inaugural virgin. In 1992 as a college senior, I traveled to DC for Bill Clinton’s first Inauguration, which also marked my first date with my future husband. Clinton’s Inaugural was thrilling – peppered with celebrities, concerts, George Stephanopoulos sightings, blissful optimism and lots of free beer. My wistful nostalgia, a potent cocktail of youth and young love and memories of Michael holding my hand on the Mall, made Clinton’s Inauguration legendary for me. So I wondered, how could No-Drama Obama’s party get any better than that?

 

No disrespect to Bill, but as it turned out, Barack’s “We are One” love fest that had strangers hugging in the streets makes Clinton ’92 feel like just another political event. Ironically, President Cool inspired the most dramatic and emotional gathering in our country’s history. So for those of you who caught the whole thing on TV and wondered what it felt like to be there…well, I thought I’d pass along some of my firsthand experiences.

 

Yes, it was cold and yes, there were celebrities from Hollywood A-Listers to total Has Beens decked in faux and real fur. But trust me it wasn’t all Beyonce serenades. There were snafus.

 

My weekend kicked off with us losing our highly-sought after, overly priced parade tickets. Well, we didn’t exactly lose them; we just failed to receive them from my sister’s doorman in New York City who signed the Fed Ex envelope. So after our 5-hour drive to Washington, we found ourselves at the D.C. Convention Center begging an Inaugural committee volunteer to hook us up with a fresh batch. Incredibly, he took pity and issued us another pair of tickets along with a very snazzy, ivory linen Inauguration invitation to go along with them. Disaster averted.

 

And yes, it was cold. Sunday, we layered up with ski socks, thermal underwear, hats, scarves and Uggs and headed out to the Lincoln Memorial for the concert. We perched ourselves on a patch of hill that gave us some pretty decent views of the Lincoln Memorial. Although everyone on stage resembled ants, one of our neighbors (after standing for four hours, we all became quite close) let us borrow his binoculars, and when I crooked my neck at just the right angle I did get a terrific view of a Jumbotron and slightly more of an idea of whom was standing onstage…..was that speck crossing the stage Bruce Springsteen?

 

We then began our party crashing or party chasing. With a million hot parties scattered around the Capital, we were desperate to get into one. Fortunately, we landed some tickets to the “Declare Yourself” party hosted by the iconic TV producer Norman Lear who had us all take his “Born Again Americans” pledge – a patriotic twist on a label that would otherwise make my Jewish identity cringe.

 

brenda bengis
02.03.09

By Brenda Bengis

As a mom, planning any trip for family is difficult. Even when your kids are no longer children the troubling question still remains, if it's fun for me, will it be fun for them? In this case I really worried a lot. Knowing the Clinton inaugurations were some of her best memories, I was doubtful that anything I planned to do would even begin to measure up to Wendy's past experiences.

With the help of some contacts I had come to know throughout the campaign, especially my Florida Women for Obama group, I was urged to go to DC in spite of many misgivings including freezing weather, crowds, cost and last minute planning. Jeri Miller, young, stylish and hip helped me shop for uggs in Aventura and assured me that ugly as they may be they were vital to the trip. They did become the theme for our role as the ugly stepsisters (Jeri included)attending the grand ball. No glass slippers for us!

One of the highlights of the trip, besides the amazing Declare Yourself Party, was a Congressional reception at The Library of Congress. Although Wendy had worked in DC as a press secretary for several years, she had never been in this building. It was fun to take her somewhere in DC she had never been before! The art and architecture here were breathtaking and the reception was lovely.

Also, there was the fabulous brunch Serena Minott organized at Georgia Brown's where we mingled with a group of women who were absolutley wild with excitement over the historical election of this incredible African American president.

Since my daugther has a full time, demanding career and a full time job as a Mom to Jonah and Lexi it is almost impossible for us to have any substantial, quality Mother-Daughter time alone. We had hoped that Debby could join us (my other daughter)and as a Mom I felt really guilty about going with only one daughter.

Considering that our mode of transportation was a mini coooper(that's another story), it probably all worked out for the best. For me the most rewarding part of attending the inauguration was that Wendy and I had a terrific time, laughed a lot and made memories to last a lifetime.