I would like to share with you one of my favorite memories from The White House. It was embarrassing then, and to be honest, I still get a bit flustered when the story comes up today. But I also love it.
It was during the first half of the President's term, and it was an insane day. We had faith leaders visiting from out of town for numerous events, most importantly, a Roosevelt Room meeting with senior Administration officials (that the President "happened" to drop-in on as well).
The Roosevelt Room is one of the few conference meeting areas in The White House. The room itself is not imposing, but its history is--along with the portrait of Teddy Roosevelt, mounted on a horse, presumably on the verge of or just returning from another successful hunting expedition.
Here's another thing about the Roosevelt Room: electronic devices, including cell phones, are banned! So outside of the room, there is a cabinet where staff and guests put their blackberrys (blackberries?) and iPhones. I had my personal cell phone on me prior to the meeting, so I put both my work phone and my personal phone in the cabinet.
The meeting went well, and there was great excitement in the room after the President's surprise visit, and so I left The White House talking with meeting attendees...completely forgetting my cell phones in the cabinet. It was only hours later that I remembered my cell phones were still outside the Roosevelt Room.
Now at the time, the West Wing lobby receptionist was Darienne Page: one of the most talented, nicest people I had the honor of working with during my time at The White House. From the start of the Administration, Darienne was the first person visitors to The West Wing would see when they entered the building: everyone from Tony Blair to Miss America. You can read all about Darienne in The New York Times (also, she recently married another talented White House colleague of mine, London Rakestraw).
Now it seems that one of the routines the West Wing lobby receptionist gets used to is that following meetings in the Roosevelt Room, Darienne would walk over to the cell phone cabinet to see what was left behind. Of course, Darienne found my phone, but there was nothing clearly evident about the phone that indicated it was mine. And, so, Darienne, wise person that she is, looked through the contacts on my phone. I'm assuming she looked through to find a name that indicated a level of closeness, or maybe even identifying information so she could locate the phone's owner. Well, as she was looking through the contacts she found what she was looking for:
Did you catch it? Third name down..."Love Muffin."
Yes, I have Melissa programmed into my phone as "Love Muffin." That was something I had hoped to keep between Melissa and I, but needless to say Darienne was able to deduce that there was some level of closeness between "Love Muffin" and the owner of this phone.
Hours after the Roosevelt Room meeting, I received a call on my desk line from Melissa saying that she was returning my call. I replied that I had not called her, and reached into my pocket to see if I had pocket dialed her. And that was when I realized, someone else had made the call entirely.
Yep, the West Wing receptionist now knew that I referred to my girlfriend (at the time) as "Love Muffin."
I sheepishly walked back to the West Wing, picked up my phone outside the Roosevelt Room, and briefly, knowingly locked eyes with Darienne. She now knew a closely-held secret. I like to think that shared knowledge led to a special kind of bond between Darienne and I.
I have a lot of memories from my time working for President Obama. Some involve intense negotiations, big victories, hard disappointments. But beyond the politics, I'll always remember how wonderful it was to have Melissa through it all: to come home to at night, to have on my arm at East Room events, to process all of the complex issues and problems that come with the territory, to be the person someone would call if they wanted to know who I was.
I do think that I will remember this story most of all--one that always makes Melissa and I laugh, and always reminds us of where we've been and how lucky we have been to share a love for so long.