You met a president this morning, shortly before noon.
You were dressed like this:
When he walked through the store, surrounded by Secret Service agents, he waved to people and looked exactly like he did when Daddy saw him campaigning for the presidency in 1976.
The line moved quickly, until we rounded a corner.
Surrounded by mounds of his books, as you and Mommy walked into his view, his face lit up.
“That’s a beautiful baby,” President Carter said.
“Thank you,” Mommy beamed.
“What’s her name?” he asked as he waved to you. You looked at him and smiled your happy smile.
“Victoria Grace,” Mommy said.
And then he signed your book.
This charming story would end here, if Daddy was like most other daddies.
But as you know, Daddy is a little different.
So, here’s the expanded story –
Mommy and Daddy met President Carter four years and a day ago.
We attended President Carter’s Sunday school class and church service. And then afterwards, we had this photo taken.
Today, Daddy took with us a copy of President Carter’s White House Diary. I also had the photo. When President Carter was talking about you, I gave the book, with the photo marking the title page to be signed, to an assistant from the publisher. She gave it to another assistant, and she immediately gave the photo back to the assistant, who gave it to me.
Daddy took the photo back, looked at the 39th President of the United States, showed him the photo, and asked, “will you sign it?”
He gave a non-committal shrug.
At this point in the story, it’s important for you to understand there were Secret Service agents everywhere.
The president was behind a roped in area, and there were women working for the publisher who were moving books across the table like leaves on an October wind. No one got near the president. He was handed older books like mine, signed them, and then signed a new book, and both were handed to the next assistant. The assistant then handed the books to the waiting person. And then people had moments to try to take a photo. President Carter would kindly smile to other people between signings.
There were two Secret Service agents in front of the rope, and if someone paused to try to take a photo, an agent would say, “photos after you get your book, please.”
So, in the center of this smoothly running machine — Daddy stood looking at President Carter.
“Sir?” I asked, in response to his shrug.
He nodded and gestured and I stepped forward and put the photo on the table.
“Thank you, Sir,” I said, as he nodded and took the photo.
“We really enjoyed this service,” I said. “Thank you.”
The Secret Service agent nearest me poked me in the ribs.
“Don’t stand there,” he might have said, or “pick it up over there,” he might have said, or “keep moving.” All I know was I was getting a gentle shove in the side from a Secrete Service agent who was not happy that I was near the 39th President of the United States and had stopped walking.
I did take a few photos, while the Secret Service agent was encouraging me to keep moving —
If Daddy had managed to take a decent photo of President Carter, it would have looked like this:
As I write this, nine hours later, I don’t actually remember how I got my photo back. I don’t know if President Carter gave it to me, or to one of the assistants. I do know my time beside the Secret Service agents was much longer than they liked.
The Costco employee near the exit of the signing area said, “Good for you,” when he saw my autographed photo.
Long after President Carter is gone, long after Daddy and Mommy are gone, on the 100th anniversary of the inaugural of President Jimmy Carter, January 20, 2077, you’ll be 63 years-old. You’ll look back on your life, and you’ll have your book, and this story and a photo of a President of the United States of America, along with his wife, and your Mommy and Daddy, signed by the President.