Ten years ago an amazing opportunity and honor was bestowed upon me! I was invited to the White House for a function honoring artists from all over the United States. Let me begin from the start of this journey. In July of 2008, I received a call from my NC congressman, Mike Mcintyre, informing me that Laura Bush had contacted all U.S.congress members asking them to choose an experienced artist from their district that could paint a very large sized ornament that would represent his district and reflect the spirit of that district. He said that he thought that I would be a good choice to represent what southeastern NC is all about. He said thatfor every year Laura Bush had been in the White House, she had chosen a theme for the Christmas decor. This year the theme would be Americana and she would like artists from all over the country to reflect the Americana on a Christmas ornament. He informed me that in a month I would receive the ornament and the painting would be done only on the one they provided and then they would give me directions on how to mail it to White House.
YIKES, I thought, after hanging up the phone. Talk about pressure and excitement. I quickly looked up the actual definition of Americana, although, I knew what I knew What i thought it was. The definition is: A collective collaboration of artifacts related to the history, folklore or cultural heritage of the United States. . I also quickly ordered a book called Americana in North Carolina. A wonderful book and the pictures were amazing. I researched at our library, scoured over history books of southeastern NC So that I could get an idea of an image to paint on my ornament. The problem with this was narrowing it down to one image. Our beautiful area, has so many great bits of Americana that as a whole, make it a terrific place to call home.
I really couldn’t decide on one thing to paint. Our area and state has so much to offer. While cleaning out my linen closet, I grabbed the quilt that was made for me when I was born, by my grandmother and her quilting bee. The idea immediately popped into my head that I would divide the ornament up into squares and make it appear as if it was a quilt with each quilt square reflecting something that we are known for.
The following are several of the miniature pictures that I painted. the N.C. Flag, state bird-the cardinal, long leaf pine branch, sea turtle, a shell, a Tar Heel, several quilt patterns from our area, a dream catcher, a pig( our bbq is amazing) and many more. I needed to use a tiny brush, and a paintbrush that I had cut most bristles off of so that I could make tiny tiny pictures.
I agonized over how to geometrically divide this sphere into many equal squares and get my theme and pics portrayed. I treated that ornament as if it were the last known egg of a dying species. I mailed it off to the White House in the box provided, and that was that until the first of November, I received an invitation to visit the White House for a reception for all of the artists across the U.S. that had painted their ornaments to depict their state’s Americana. It would be hosted by Laura Bush. I am a huge Laura bush fan and I’ve read her book and her girl’s book. The invitation said that I could take one guest. Hmmmm oh my.
It was actually a no brainer. My guest would have to be my daughter in that she too is an artist, and at the time, was in college to become a graphic designer. My husband would have been thrilled to go and see the White House, but I knew this was a once in a lifetime mother daughter bonding time.
Of course, what does a woman think of first when they are invited somewhere?
“WHAT DO I WEAR????”
It was to be very very cold that day with a chance of snow. I needed to be warm and comfortable and festive! My friend, Cyndy had this beautiful light green cashmere sweater that I loved that she called, “The traveling sweater,” because so many of her friends had borrowed it for a special event. I immediately asked to borrow the traveling sweaters wear with black slacks.
On the week that we were to attend, my daughter was preparing for exams, so we knew that this had to be a quick trip. We left after her first class and drove 5 hours to D.C. and then of course went on a Christmas shopping blitz that night. we had already sent all of our I.d. And social security Info way ahead so that we could be cleared to attend. I was nervous because of my shady past. This is a joke I assure you.
We called for a car to drive us there, and when the man asked where to? It was just way too cool to say, The White House East wing please. He dropped us off and we were led into a security area where our purses were checked and we were scanned and then off we went. The place was decked out in the Americana theme, lots of patriotic Christmas trees and the decorations were incredible. We got our pics taken in the blue room near my ornament and then were led into an abundance of food. The chefs had made food from different regions of the U.S. I spoke to many artists from all over and we all had that look of awe on our faces as if we could not believe this was happening. Laura Bush came and stood on the stairs so that she could see everyone and thanked us all. I actually had tears in my eyes because I thought, this is really as good as it gets, and I was genuinely proud of myself! To walk around and look at the furniture, paintings, rugs that thousands of people that love our country and make decisions for us was humbling. This was the last Christmas that the bushes would be in the White House. I’m so glad that I got to be a part of it, and see Laura Bush. She is and always was a class act and such a lady.
We were there until about 5:45. We got to see the white chocolate White House that was displayed. They had a whole room of desserts . Omg my dream! We took tons of pictures. The downside wS that my daughter had to be back for class the next morning. So our driver was outside the east wing area to drive us back to our hotel after my Cinderella experience. We then hopped in our car for a 3 1/2 hour drive to my brothers home near Rocky Mount where we spent the night and went back to reality.
We all knew that the ornaments would be kept by the White House and out in a warehouse where all ornaments and holiday decorations are kept. The next day HGTV was to arrive to do a special on the White House Christmas and talk about the theme, Americana and what it meant to Mrs. Bush. I thought that it was a fitting theme for her to go out on. Having pride in our country and what that stands for and all of our many ways to appreciate our beautiful past and to really go back to the basics of home, family and for me the best state! North Carolina!