January 11, 2009 12:56:24 am
Over the years,several presidents have been forced to ponder the delicate (and sometimes unpleasant) question of whether to move the in-laws into the White House.
On Friday,the transition team of Barack Obama confirmed that his 71-year-old mother-in-law would be moving,at least temporarily,into the grand residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. While Grant and Truman might have been forgiven for gritting their teeth at such a prospect,Obama has said he will be delighted to have his wifes mother,Marian Robinson,join the first family in Washington.
After all,Marian,known as a loving,tough-minded matriarch,has been the bedrock of the Obama family. During the presidential campaign,she retired from her job as a bank secretary to care for the Obama girls,Malia and Sasha while their parents were on the road.
But while Marian has been the family mainstay,she has also prized her independence. She chose to work as a secretary,though her parents had preferred that she become a teacher. She ran the 50- and 100-yard dashes in the Illinois senior games when she was well into her 60s. And she has often teased her daughter,Michelle Obama,and the President-elect about their household rules for her granddaughters.
Marian is so deeply rooted in Chicago and in the brick bungalow where she has lived for decades that Obama seemed uncertain until recently that she would make the move.
Shes just been an unbelievable support for all of us during this process, Obama said on 60 Minutes after he was elected President. She likes her own space, he continued. She doesnt like a lot of fuss around her. And,like it or not,theres some fuss in the White House. But we hope that she comes.
The White House is a world away from the working-class Black neighbourhood on the South Side of Chicago where Marian and her late husband,Fraser Robinson,raised their two children to succeed.
In an interview with The New York Times last year,Marian said she had encouraged her children to speak their minds and gave them room to make mistakes. It was always hard work and dont let people stop you, she said.
She took math and reading workbooks home so her children were always ahead in school. And she insisted on discipline and chores to teach the importance of accountability.
Years after she moved out,Michelle marveled that her mother had kept her bedroom exactly the same,providing a sense of continuity and history that her daughters adore.
Obama felt that sense of history on election night when Marian squeezed his hand as the final results came in.
You had this sense of,well,whats she thinking? Obama said on 60 Minutes. For a Black woman who grew up in the 50s,you know,in a segregated Chicago,to watch her daughter become first lady of the US.
Transition officials say,Marian remains uncertain about whether she wants to give up her quiet life in Chicago for four in Washington. She has already moved to town to help her granddaughters get settled but has yet to decide how long she will stay.
Ive never lived outside of Chicago,so I dont know, Marian said last year,hesitating a bit as she considered whether she was willing to move into the White House.
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