By Joyce Erekson
When Harrington Elementary School librarian Carole Shutzer got the opportunity to spend Hanukkah with her daughter in Washington D.C. she didn’t think twice about making the trip. Of course it didn’t hurt that the mother and daughter would be doing their celebrating at the White House and their hosts would be President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
Shutzer’s daughter, Elise Shutzer, works in Washington D.C. and was invited to the annual White House Hanukkah Party held on Wednesday, Dec. 9. The younger Shutzer was allowed one guest and mom got the nod.
“She was kind enough to take her mother,” Shutzer said. “It was wonderful. It was so exciting to be able to go.”
Shutzer said guests had to undergo several security checks to get into the White House, but once inside they were allowed to wander around a bit and enjoy the food, music and of course the stunning Christmas and Hanukkah decorations that adorned the Red Room, the Green Room, the Blue Room, the state dining room and Shutzer’s favorite, the library.
“The first place we went was the library. I wanted to sit down to just get a feel for what that was like. Of course it’s like every library, but the fact is it’s the White House library. It was just so interesting,” Shutzer said.
And what does one do in a library? Read of course.
“We took down a book. I was a little nervous but I’m a librarian. I had to read a book in the White House library. I’m thinking this is going to be like a museum (with alarms going off if you touch something), but they (the White House staff) said enjoy yourself. Do whatever you want,” Shutzer said. “The staff encouraged you to go into every room (that was open to the visitors). They were so warm and welcoming.”
Shutzer said she would have loved to have spent more time exploring the library, but there were so many things to see and time was short (the party lasted a couple of hours). Each of the rooms was decorated for the holidays (Christmas and Hanukkah) by a different designer so each had its own flair.
“There were so many beautiful Christmas trees in all the rooms (the library alone had five) and the table decorations were all made out of candy – gum drops, peppermints, gumballs and candy canes,” she said.
One of the trees in the state dining room was made out of gumballs and another was built from candy canes. There was also a miniature White House, complete with Santa’s sleigh and a nutcracker, all made out of chocolate. Guests were also served a beautiful dinner (cocktail style) and after President Obama spoke and the menorah lighting was completed, the desserts were rolled out.
“It was beautiful, just spectacular,” Shutzer said. “In an odd way it’s a little like the Nutcracker Suite with all the candy and everything made out of candy. It’s a little enchanted too, when you think about it. Here you are in a place you would never think you would get to be and you get to participate in seeing, visualizing all the history. It was very meaningful to me. I was very lucky that my daughter took me.”
Before she left for Washington D.C., Shutzer encouraged one of her classes to write letters to President Obama. The youngsters invited the president to visit their class (Room 203) and the library and read to them. Shutzer brought the stack of letters, complete with illustrations, with her and gave them to a White House staffer.
Although she told them it isn’t likely anything will come out of it, Shutzer said she wanted the students to know it’s always worth a try because you just never know.
The Shutzers are from Swampscott. Elise Shutzer attended the University of Pennsylvania where she studied diplomatic history and international politics.