After watching the election from the sidelines in Europe (where I voted via absentee ballot), I was determined that my family and I would go to Washington for the Inauguration to witness history. I took the little ladies out of school for a week, asked people I knew if we could invade their guest room (now is definitely the time to know somebody who lives in the area), and we made our way to the nation’s capitol.
A friend heard that we were coming to DC and graciously invited us to his office located on Pennsylvania Ave., which was hosting an inaugural watch party. Since I didn’t want to brave the mall with young children considering the large numbers anticipated, I happily accepted. I felt a little guilty about this at first, traveling from Europe and all, but since most people on the mall were watching jumbotrons anyway, not to mention the all-important factor of having access to clean bathroom facilities and not having to deal with that nastiness that is the Port-a-Potty, I quickly got over my reservations.
We began the day by making our way downtown. With a bus stop a half a block from where we were staying, we choose that as our mode of transportation. We rode the bus as far as we could and walked several blocks to my friend’s office. The excitement was palpable as we walked among the sea of people in the direction of the various inaugural watch venues; the mall (those brave sojourners), the Newseum (the lucky few) or to various offices on or near the parade route. I was so excited to be in DC, in that celebratory atmosphere, that it almost made me want to support the street vendors and buy some of the cheesy Obama merchandise on offer. I said almost.
We got to the office, thawed out and mingled with the other guests. Miss P and Miss V found another little girl to play with and while waiting for the ceremony to start, entertained themselves by drawing and with a make-shift bowling alley (paper cups used in the place of bowling pins). As the ceremony began, I got choked up but managed not to cry. Watching Obama take the oath of office I grinned from ear to ear, feeling that same sense of pride, joy and hope that I have come accustomed to feeling since Obama became a serious contender in the presidential race. We stepped onto the balcony,  braving the frigid temperatures for a while to watch the parade as it progressed down Pennsylvania Ave. We stood with our cameras ready, hoping to get a photo of the President and First Lady as they walked along the parade route. Unfortunately, they got back into the limousine a couple of buildings before they reached ours.
Later that evening, with the girls happily settled with babysitters and the High School Musical 2 DVD, we went to the Mid-Atlantic Ball. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from an inaugural ball, but thankfully, Roxanne Roberts of The Washington Post gave the following inaugural ball survival tipswhich I took very seriously:

1. Take the Metro

Take a city notorious for its traffic, add to it a million extra cars on the road in town for the event and you get nowhere. We took the metro and it was uncomplicated and hassle-free. We had to get off one stop earlier because the metro stop at our destination, the convention center, was closed. We walked a couple of blocks to the convention center and because I followed the third tip (see below) it wasn’t a problem.

2. Eat before you get there

Despite the astronomical amount you paid for the ticket, dinner will not be provided. Although there was food at the ball we went to, some sad looking pasta, and later, chips and pretzels, I was very glad that I had eaten earlier.

3. Do not wear killer high heels

There will be nowhere to sit, so women, do yourself a favor and wear flats. I initially felt a little dowdy about wearing my flats as I checked out all of the other women in their fabulous heels. But as the evening wore on, and I was enjoying myself and not miserable because my feet hurt, I knew that I’d made the right decision. (note: my gown was floor length and had a train, so no one saw my shoes. )

4. Keep it light

Try to keep in mind that most inaugural balls are basically glorified proms. The DJ was decent, and the band, The Living Dead (formerly, The Grateful Dead) though not exactly my cup of tea, were perfectly fine. But if you were fortunate enough to attend an official ball, like I was, where the President and First Lady make an appearance, then I would have to argue that the prom has definitely been trumped.

I don’t know about you, but the President of the United States didn’t show up at my senior prom. One sitting US President did, however, show up at my college graduation as the commencement speaker. That, however, is another story.