Festivities are underway at the White House for the start of the holiday season... First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed military families to a reception and preview of the holiday decorations and ornaments for the Blue Room Christmas tree. Fun to see so many children included, too, getting to make some holiday projects -- and memories -- of their own. A special honor and recognition, with a country's thanks.
I remember my excitement getting an invitation from First Lady Laura Bush in 2004. I was one of several hundred painters from the Society of Decorative Painters whose ornaments were selected for that year's White House Christmas tree.
It was a bittersweet journey getting there 8 years ago. I'd sent off for an ornament to paint when I first saw the notice in the SDP's Decorative Painter magazine's summer issue. I was excited, but my mom was ecstatic that I'd try for it (SDP sent out 500 kits, 350 would be selected for the White House). Not long after I'd received the large rusty-metal jingle bell, my mother was ill, and then she had a stroke. She passed away a week and a half later.
In such a short time, the whole world changed... But her love was reflected in family and friends. We arranged her service and packed up her apartment. I hadn't even thought of the painting. But reaching the deadline for mailing it off, I could see my mom's smile, could feel her encouragement. I painted into the early morning hours. I packed up my ornament and mailed it for overnight delivery... And then I went out to Riverside National Cemetery -- Mom was being buried there that morning. I wanted her to know I'd followed through. A shared dream.
I'm sure my mom was (is!) looking out for us. I received the beautifully calligraphed invitation in November. December 1st my eldest son, then a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, escorted me to the White House for the afternoon reception. As we walked into the Blue Room to meet and have our picture taken with Mrs. Bush, he spotted my ornament as soon as he saw the Christmas tree.
It's a lifetime memory -- and for me, it carries another link. That autumn marked 100 years since my mother's mother had come to America from Sweden. The White House seemed even more special being there with my son, thinking of my mom, remembering her mother's anniversary. Thankful for shared dreams, one generation to the next.