By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
Since becoming a grandfather two years ago, I’ve really been on a roll. But nothing could top taking my granddaughter, Chloe, to Washington, D.C., for the White House Easter Egg Roll.
On Easter Sunday, I (known to Chloe as Poppie) drove from Long Island, New York, to the nation’s capital with my wife, Sue (Nini); our younger daughter, Lauren (Mommy); and, of course, Chloe (Chloe). We stayed with our older daughter, Katie (Aunt Katie), and her husband, Dave (Uncle Dave), who live and work in Washington.
Katie, a Washington Post reporter who until recently had covered the White House (she’s now on the campaign trail for the paper), got four tickets to the Easter Egg Roll, a national tradition dating back to the administration of Rutherford B. Hayes, whose wife, known as Lemonade Lucy, banned alcoholic beverages from the White House. In keeping with a family tradition, Katie and Dave had them at their house.
The next day — which was 75 degrees and sunny, with a refreshing breeze and no humidity, a rarity in D.C. — Chloe, Lauren, Sue and I showed up at the waiting area, tickets in hand and ready to roll.
We had plenty of company. Over the course of the day, which began at 7:30 a.m., about 35,000 people converged on the White House grounds. We were in the last group — our time slot was 4:45-6:45 p.m. — but the line was still so long that we must have been in a different ZIP code.
At the checkpoint, Sue and Lauren had to empty their pocketbooks.
“I don’t carry a pocketbook,” I told one of the agents.
“That’s OK, sir,” he responded. “Empty your pockets.”
He went through my wallet.
“Please don’t harm the moths,” I said.
He kept a straight face and handed it back to me.
Even Chloe’s bag was searched.
“Those diapers aren’t mine,” I noted.
I’m surprised I wasn’t arrested.
As we waited in line, Lauren asked an Egg Roll volunteer named Sheila if Peppa Pig, Chloe’s favorite cartoon character, was still there.
“Yes,” Sheila replied.
“How about President and Mrs. Obama?” I asked.
“They were here this morning,” Sheila said.
“My granddaughter won’t mind,” I said. “She’ll be more excited to see Peppa.”
At that point, Chloe wasn’t excited about anything. In fact, she was sleeping in her stroller.
A volunteer named Jean offered to write Lauren’s phone number on Chloe’s wrist band in case Chloe got lost.
“I’m always being told to get lost,” I said. “Will you put my wife’s phone number on my wrist band?”
“No,” said Jean. “Nobody in your family is going to come and get you.”
I felt sorry for Jean, who said she had been there since the gates opened that morning. “It’s been a long day,” she said wearily. “After this, I’m going home and having a cocktail.”
“Where do you live?” I asked. “We’ll join you.”
“Come on over,” Jean said.
After about 45 minutes, we finally reached the South Lawn of the White House, which was swarming with excited kids, costumed characters, friendly volunteers, awestruck parents and one confused grandfather.
The star of the show — Chloe, of course — woke up as we approached the Egg Roll area. I had the honor of accompanying her.
A volunteer named Carolyn handed Chloe a wooden spoon so she could roll an orange hard-boiled egg down a grassy lane about 10 yards long. There were several other lanes, each with a spoon-wielding child and an adult.
The race was on. Or it would have been if I hadn’t dropped the egg in front of Chloe and across the starting line before the whistle blew.
“I cheated, didn’t I?” I said sheepishly.
“Yes, you did,” Carolyn replied.
Then she blew the whistle. The crowd roared.
“Come on, Chloe!” I cried, showing her how to roll the egg with her wooden spoon.
She’s only 2, so she didn’t quite get the hang of it at first, but she figured it out in pretty short order and — with help from Poppie — made her way toward the finish line. Sue and Lauren cheered her on.
Chloe didn’t win, but she got the ultimate compliment from Carolyn: “We saved the best for last.”
Only one thing could have been better — a photo op with Peppa Pig. Sure enough, the pink porker and her younger brother, George, were greeting their little fans in the shadow of the South Portico. Chloe hugged them both and posed for pictures.
At day’s end, she was back in her stroller, holding a commemorative wooden egg signed by the Obamas’ dogs, Bo and Sunny.
The little girl had the time of her life. So did I because, as Chloe would agree, that’s the way Poppie rolls.
Copyright 2015 by Jerry Zezima