From dour Bushes to fun-loving Obamas

November 10, 2008|By SUSAN REIMER | SUSAN REIMER,susan.reimer@baltsun.com

In our People magazine culture, the Obama family is photo-op gold.

Their youth, their good looks, their style and their charming affection for each other and for their children are going to make this a fun White House to watch.

And I am so ready for that.

When voters chose hope and change Tuesday, I am pretty sure they were thinking about electing the first black president or about changing the over-the-cliff direction of the country.

But what I am hoping for is a change in the dour reality show that White House life has become under President Bush, who doesn't drink, doesn't party and goes to bed at 9 p.m. Or a change from the brittle, testy, dysfunctional White House of the Clintons.

I am old enough to remember the Kennedy White House and the charming chaos enforced by their children and all those young cousins. There was even a pony on the White House lawn for Caroline.

I am ready for 7-year-old Sasha and 10-year-old Malia, the youngest children in the White House in 30 years, and their new puppy.

And I am ready for their mom, Michelle, a tall and striking woman who will bring her own brand of style-on-a-budget to the job of first lady. With her big belts and her bigger brooches, she gives accessorizing its biggest boost since Sex in the City.

This may not be the time for the first lady, a la Jackie, to fill her closets with designer wear. And Michelle Obama caught a lot of flak for the Narciso Rodriguez dress she choose for election night (one wag said that it looked like a lava lamp). But I am so tired of suits with lapel pins and pantsuits and boxy pumps.

The new first lady managed to make Vanity Fair's esteemed Best Dressed list by mixing it up with J. Crew, White House/Black Market and H&M - places where the rest of us can shop. She famously said that "it's fun to look pretty," and that will make it fun to see what she wears next.

Whoopi Goldberg made a crack on The View about the sexy new first couple, and you have to admit that the fist-bumping Obamas crackle with that kind of vitality. And when they bend their heads together and let their foreheads touch, you feel like you are eavesdropping on a prayer.

While Michelle can be hot, her husband is as cool as the ice-blue ties he favors.

Men's Vogue called Barack Obama the second coming of John F. Kennedy. And politico.com columnist Roger Simon wrote that the economic collapse "made his wonkiness cool."

George Bush once asked an Oval Office guest if he had kids, and then said, "They're a pain in the ass," of his own twin daughters, who were partying hard at college at the time.

The family friction that inevitably comes with older children will be replaced with the unselfconscious affection of a young family. The Obama kids still allow their parents to hug them in public - even on a big stage and in front of 100,000 celebrating supporters.

Obama took his daughters on the campaign trail with him the week before the election because he was tired of being away from them. And Michelle, in staking out her areas of interest as a first lady, said that "mom-in-chief" would be the most important. She said she was determined, in the tumult, to make sure her kids know they are still the center of their parents' lives.

I haven't felt that kind of parental warmth in the White House since Hillary walked Chelsea to school in the morning, and I'm looking forward to it.

It is going to be interesting to see how Obama - who resisted the easy patriotic signal of the flag pin for so long - decorates the Oval Office and what symbols he will install there - a task that is magically completed during the new president's inauguration ceremony and will no doubt be the next cover story of InStyle magazine.

Aside from having the family residence ScotchGuarded against the mistakes of the new puppy, it will be fun to see how the Obamas arrange the lives of a couple of girls who will be closing in on adolescence during the next four years.

State dinners at the Kennedy White House were often the most eclectic collection of talent and genius since, as they say, Thomas Jefferson dined alone. The Bushes hosted only six state dinners in eight years (the Clintons had 30), and the toasts were often more interesting than the guest lists. I can't wait to see whom the Obamas invite, and what kind of informal get-togethers they host.

And how will they include the first grandmother, Marian Robinson, Michelle's mother? After all, the children essentially lived in her Chicago apartment during the campaign, and she is a widow. A multi-generational White House will be fun to watch.

The story of Barack Obama's early family life is pretty chaotic. Teenage mother, Kenyan father he never knew. Grandmother who stepped in to raise him.

Michelle's story is much more conventional, but her parents struggled and pressed their children to strive and succeed.

But the new first couple seems to have rewritten, as so many of us do, that history in the making of their own family. They are following a script of partnership and love and devotion to their children.

And, if their dancing on Ellen DeGeneres' show is any indication, they look like they can have a good time, too.

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