CBS2 News Susan Marques in Washington, DC, to meet with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden. Follow along with her experiences here.
Washington (CBSLA) What comes to your mind when you think of the holidays?
When I was a kid, my mom would tie toys into black trash bags, so we couldn’t see what she got for Christmas. She hid them in her closet or in the garage.
These days a lot of Amazon boxes arrive at our house, and Austin doesn’t look twice at the boxes stacked in my closet. Before the pandemic, I’d bring bags home from Target and the 99 Cents Store, and if I didn’t hide them right away, he’d figure out the glossy label on the box, and that’s it. Before he could speak, he was bothering me and pointing until I gave him the gift. There was nothing to distract him. His young mind didn’t understand that waiting for a gift builds expectations and makes them more fun. He knows I bought him something, so actually give it to him.
Last year, Austin’s “big gift” was a police car he could drive. Is everyone doing a great gift? It feels like something my brother Matt and I created as a Christmas tradition to pressure my mom into getting more gifts for us.
“Um. I know you just got a costume for me, but what am I going to get for my big gift? Shall we go look at the shoes or the handbags?”
I grumble when I remember our shameful ways. But now that I’m a mother, I know how fun it is to shop for kids. Austin is 5 years old, and I really miss the childhood stages that he already left behind.
I also love to entertain the people in my house. There were many unforgettable dinner parties, cocktails and themed parties. This year’s Thanksgiving made it seem like the pandemic was far away. All twelve of us were vaccinated, so with the doors wide open we filled every chair at the dining table and the children’s table. My mother prepared her food for the traditional Southern Thanksgiving. We had turkey, ham, cornbread sauce, Grandma Ethel’s green beans, mashed potatoes, giblet broth, fresh sweet corn, roasted sweet potatoes with sweetened pecans, mac and cheese, whole-grain cranberry sauce, and my nuggets, sweet Hawaiian rolls. There was pumpkin pie and apple pie. I know I’m leaving something out. Oh, cranberry jelly out of the can! We cut it right.
We played mini-games, open crackers and wear paper crowns, read puzzles and compete to solve them. We wrote what to thank and went around the table. Some of us were grateful for health, family, and friends. Others thanked for simple pleasures, such as driving with windows, and listening to music. Walk and listen to the papers underfoot in the cool air.
This is my favorite time of the year. My colleagues will tell you, and you may have heard me say, that I put up my Christmas tree once in August. That was when I lived in Atlanta. I lived in a high-rise and had a nice view of downtown, but was homesick. I survived this one season alone by laying out a white plastic tree and buying old trinkets on Ebay in my spare time. I loved receiving parcels in the mail. They often came from older people in different parts of the country, and the squares were oriented with shaky cursive writing. Sometimes faded ornaments were individually wrapped in antique newspaper. This was years before anyone had even heard of Amazon. Does the site even exist? Ah, the old days.
Now, I just leave the lights on my house all year long and put the tree up before Thanksgiving. Don’t worry, it’s clear lights. Neighbors haven’t complained yet.
So, when I received an email from CBS President’s White House correspondent, Ed O’Keefe, saying that First Lady’s Press Secretary Dr. Jill Biden wanted another interview with me, my heart left my chest.
I first met Dr. Jill Biden when she was our former second lady. She was on the 2020 campaign tour and came to CBS Broadcasting in Studio City for a quick interview about her new children’s book “Joey” about President Joe Biden’s childhood.
She interviewed me and my co-host DeMarco Morgan for CBS2 News This Morning. She was wearing a bright green jacket, a floral dress, and high heels. We were all thrilled that it came. I remember telling her how proud I was as she checked out a theater smasher who tried to reach out to her husband, former Vice President and presidential candidate Joe Biden.
I’m the protective type too, and my family has always associated with Biden in a personal way because President Biden has been open about his stuttering and embraces children who stutter. A few days ago a little girl talked about her stuttering with the boss. While President Biden stutters occasionally, my dad has a stutter that doesn’t give in. I’ll admit he didn’t have much support as a kid. He might have gotten over it better if he had nuns helping him sing lyrics like the chief did. By the way, I love that story
People like to make fun of stuttering, which implies a lack of intelligence. Not that my dad’s lifelong stutter stopped him in life. He was skilled in mathematics and storytelling. He raced cars and started two successful companies out of nothing, but he never got over his stutter. It was part of it. I remember my dad was in the middle of telling a great story about boxing, and he would start saying a word like, “Fight.” He’d say, “This guy really wanted to give up…ff…. punch his lightsaber!” and then laugh, as if he couldn’t catch the word. Like a hunter, he would try to utter a word, but sometimes they would get away with it.
So back to the present. I sent an email to FLOTUS’s press secretary. I had no idea if Dr. Biden would come into the studio again, or if something was out of town. So when he said the interview would take place at the White House, I passed out. When I found out it was a tour of holiday decor, well, I had to go numb. All of my favorite things are wrapped in one piece.
Can I tell you about one of my favorite books? It’s called “Upstairs in the White House: My Life with the First Ladies.” I’ve read it several times. It was written in 1972 by JB West, the leader of the White House. Over the course of 28 years, he worked for six presidents and first ladies. He worked quietly behind the scenes through our nation’s triumphs and crises, and the goal was to ensure that everything went smoothly for the first family. Regardless of the political party, the loyal staff of the White House remains the same, with each family leaving their indelible mark. I loved his peek behind closed doors, especially since it was done with respect and dignity.
West delves into the details of First Lady Jackie Kennedy’s restoration of the White House. She established the White House Historical Society when she was the first lady, a private non-profit organization that funds efforts to preserve and preserve the beauty and elegance of the White House. She secured priceless paintings for the walls and hired the White House’s first treasurer to make sure the furnishings reflected the history of the presidencies.
I vaguely remember giving CBS2 investigative reporter Kristen Lazar a copy of the book a few years ago. If I’m wrong, Kristen, I owe you a copy.
Back to the topic of gifts. Remember how I mentioned a “big gift” to my son from last year? My husband Robert was trying to assemble the police car in the garage on Christmas Eve. Austin discovered a huge bin near the trash cans, with a picture of the police car on it.
He said, “Santa bring me a police car!”
She yelled, “His dwarves are too busy, he sent it to my father to finish!”
Next time I check in, I’ll be taking the White House vacation tour. wish me luck!