Our day was filled with preparations – LT getting a uniform he rarely wears (in fact, it was the first time I’d ever seen him in it) ready, myself going to get my hair done and actually putting on makeup (a rare event indeed!).
We donned our fancy dress, thanked the babysitter, and headed for the Washington Convention Center.
Getting into town wasn’t actually too bad. Traffic didn’t start backing up until we were mere blocks away from our parking spot (which we’d reserved far in advance).
Despite the backup, it didn’t take too awful long to get there and walk the rest of the few blocks to the convention center. At this point we were thankful we were going to the military ball, because we saw the giant crowd for the civilian ball just waiting in the (freezing cold) street to be ushered through their security check while we pretty much just waltzed right through our own security check and into the building.
Up a floor to coat check, and another to the floor housing the ballroom, we were inside in record time. Once there, we took note of the long line to take your photo in front of the Inaugural seal and opted to get in it right away, so we could get it done and enjoy the rest of the evening.
When we were just a few people back in line, the event ushers were warning everyone that the event would be starting in just a minute, and that they’d be closing the doors to the ballroom. I got a little nervous that we’d miss something at that point, but LT assured me that there was no way it would happen (there were still tons of people just streaming in from outside).
We got our photos taken (quickly, because despite figuring that we wouldn’t miss anything, we didn’t want to *really* miss anything!), and headed for the ball room.
As we walked in, they announced the first performer of the night: Brad Paisley.
My husband turned to me and laughed. Brad Paisley is far from my favorite artist. I rolled my eyes and we proceeded to find a decent spot near the stage that the Obamas would be dancing on later in the evening. Paisley performed for about twenty five minutes on a stage off to the right of the main stage.
Regardless of my general dislike for Paisley, my husband and I took a moment to dance. Somehow I knew it would be the only chance we really got to do that, despite the fact that we were at a “Ball”.
Following his performance, five representatives of the different branches of our Armed Forces came onto the stage. They each spoke a short line or two, each eliciting variations of “Hoo-ah!” from their own branch members attending the ball.
Once they finished their (rather short) conversation, they all exited the stage.
And we waited.
There was some DJ-like music going on at the other end of the hall, but all we could really make out of it was the bass.
We watched technicians prepping the stage that Paisley had played on for another artist.
We looked around ourselves and had short snippets of conversation.
Nobody wanted to move, because as time went by the ballroom became more and more crowded, and moving meant giving up your coveted spot as close to the stage as you could get.
And we waited.
About twenty five minutes later, they announced Alicia Keys.
She entered the stage and sat down at the piano. She sang a song, changing the lyric to honor President Obama. In five minutes (quite literally, we looked at our clock when she started and when she finished), she was done.
And we waited some more.
Another twenty minutes went by as we just stood there, wondering how the planners of the event didn’t have something going on in these gaps.
He entered the stage amidst much applause and cheering. He walked directly to the podium and began his speech. As is his signature style, his speech was eloquent, heartfelt, and full of gratitude to the members of the Armed Forces.
He then turned to speak to a group of troops currently in Afghanistan over a live video feed. A few of them introduced themselves, eliciting cheers from the military members in our crowd when a particular hometown was mentioned. One of them thanked the President for allowing them to “Come to his party.”
He thanked the troops for their service, and for their family’s sacrifice. When the transmission was over, he turned back to the podium.
“There’s one last thing I’ve gotta do – I’ve got a date.” He said. He then introduced his wife and dance partner, Michelle Obama.
Hudson sang Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” in a fun little poke at the President’s own performance last year.
Once they’d danced with one another for a few minutes, two members of the Military came onto the stage and they danced with the President and First Lady.
We were both pretty thrilled to be present for all of this. Seeing the President and First Lady in person, for me, anyway, is a fairly indescribable experience. It was strangely satisfying.
The people that I saw on that stage were exactly who I expected them to be. It’s nice to realize that they are indeed only human. To see in person the love that they clearly have for one another. To feel the reassurance that yes, really, they are doing their very best to support us in any way they can.
I would love to someday actually meet Mr. and Mrs. (especially Mrs.) Obama. Even after their time in the white house is done. I seriously doubt that will ever happen, though, so I am extremely glad for having gotten as close as we did last night.
On our way out, we saw the Inaugural Cake. I am told it was made by Duff Goldman, of “Ace of Cakes” fame. It was a beautiful cake, of course. But we were left wondering when they had brought it in. We didn’t see it on our way in (even though it was right in front of the doors we’d entered through). There was no announcement or unveiling that we knew of. We thought it was strange, but moved on.
At this point in the evening, we were both pretty hungry (you can read in almost any article about the ball today of the lack of food offered there) and my feet were about tired of being in heels. We stopped at a little restaurant close to the convention center called “Mandu”. The food was very good (Uncle John, we had kimchi!).
After that, we found our car and headed home.
My only regret of the whole evening is that I didn’t bring more than just my phone camera to take photos with. But I suppose it doesn’t matter. The memories will last a lifetime.