Tag Archives: Congress

A Slice of My Life: A Very Special Christmas Gift

Christmas Scarf

Knit Scarf heirloom Christmas gift.

Really? 1986?  I got this keepsake Christmas gift thirty years ago??

Yes, it is true.  I have not had occasion to wear it in southern Arizona, I seldom have to swaddle in a woolen scarf. And on those rare occasions when I did wear a warm scarf, I chose one in colors that I like better than green.

But of course this is green–it is a Christmas gift.  And a very special one at that.

Christmas Scarf

Both ends of Christmas scarf from president Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan , 1986

Nancy Reagan sent it to me as a reminder of our meeeting at the White House.  Me and several thousand other people.  The party I attended was just one of a dozen or so Christmas parties given by the President and his wife each year.

In 1986, I was working for Congressman Jim Kolbe of Arizona.  When he got his invitation to the White House Christmas party that year, his wife, Sarah Dinham, was unable to fly from Tucson to Washington D.C. to attend, so he needed “a date.”  I was the lucky choice of staff members.  I flew into Washington from Tucson where I headed up the District Office, and spent a few days on Congressional office business with some excursions for Christmas shopping at the Smithsonian Museum gift shops.

However, the highlight of the week was getting all dressed up and going to the White House.  Several weeks before, we had to submit my name, address and social security number to the White House so that the Secret Service could be sure I was not a menace.  We arrived that evening and passed through a metal detector and a cordon of watchful men in suits and uniformed marines.

We made our way up the grand staircase to the main level.  At the top of the stairs, president Ronald Reagan and Mrs. Regan stood shaking hands with every guest that came into the hallway.  The President was as friendly as his familiar smile and his warmth took away some of the nervous feeling of actually being a guest at the White House.

It was an interesting moment when Jim Kolbe introduced me to the President.  He used my nickname, Bunny, which all my life I thought I would shed when I became a real adult. After that evening, my fate was sealed. I had been introduced to the President of the United States by that silly child’s name.  I knew I was fated to be known by some people as Bunny for the rest of my life.

Nancy Reagan left quite a different impression than president Reagan. Many people comment about how tiny she was–particularly standing next to the robust “cowboy” figure of Ronald Reagan.  But despite being beautiful and tiny as a doll, Mrs. Reagan, while formally correct, did not radiate the warmth that her husband did. In fact, as she limply shook my hand, she was quite obviously looking over my shoulder to see if there wasn’t somebody more important coming.

There were quite literally hundreds of people packing the Blue room, the Red room, the Green Room, the Grand Foyer, the enormous East room and every hallway in between. After all there are 535 members of Congress and each attendee brought a guest.  Even the most jaded old- timers could not pass up the opportunity to be able to chat with old friends and frenemies at the White House.  Some probably even had plans for lobbying the President on some pending piece of legislation.

Since my Congressional “date” was an old hand at visiting the White House, he graciously asked me what I wanted to do.  Without hesitation, I told him that I wanted to be able to meet George Bush, then the vice president.  We wove our way through the crowd, Jim stopping to chat with Congressional friends, and then I spotted George Bush.  He towered above the crowd–people don’t always realize how tall he really is.

When we got there, the two men–Kolbe and Bush are two of the most gracious men I ever met–had a semi-awkward moment.  Jim, trying to make sure that Bush would not be embarrassed by assuming that I was Jim’s wife, stumbled over an introduction in which he wanted to say “Mr. Vice President, this is Bunny Badertscher, my chief of staff, not my wife, who had business in Tucson.”  Instead, he only got out, “This is not my wife….” when the vice president enveloped me in a hug and said, “Oh, that’s all right!”

Our conversation was brief because a mob formed around the vice president, but I was satisfied that I had been able to say hello to the man I admired.

Reagan Christmas Tree

The Reagans in front of the Christmas Tree in the Blue Room in 1986

I am sorry to say I do not remember a lot of the details. There were tables of refreshments in the East room where the Marine band was playing and we even managed to dance briefly. The towering official Christmas tree was decorated with vintage children’s toys that year, I believe. [Click on the photo to see the real story–I was close–it was Mother Goose characters.]Gorgeous decorations filled every room, but is all a blur–a blur of faces and bodies filling every foot of floor space.

And I got a keepsake Christmas gift to prove that it was not just a dream, but a real Cinderella experience.


Details of a 2016 White House Christmas party for the volunteers who did the decorating.

Flour Sacks, Man Aprons and Daniel Patrick Moynihan

At Thanksgiving, when we each expressed what we were thankful for, I said I was thankful for the ancestors who left us stories and recipes and dishes and silver to remember them by.

“What about the aprons,” said my oldest son.

“Huh?” I said.

“You’re thankful for the Ancestors–what about the Aprons?”

Ah, yes…the aprons.  The drawer full of aprons is part of what got Ancestors in Aprons started earlier this year. So here are a few aprons that bring memories flooding back every time I open the drawer.

old aprons

My grand daughter wearing her great-great grandmother’s apron.

Grandma Vera's flour sack apron

Grandma Vera’s flour sack apron

My grand daughter wears Grandma Vera’s flour sack apron when we make Christmas cookies. That apron not only reminds me of Grandma Vera, but also of that wonderful, soft, colorfully printed material that flour used to come in. We used flour sacks to make aprons, but also to make skirts and summer tops and hot pads and on and on. It was a favorite material to learn to sew on. And it got softer and softer as it aged.

A worn out apron strap

A worn out apron strap

Grandma’s flour sack apron is pretty soft, but it is also wearing out around the neck band.



Harriette's Apron

Harriette’s Apron

My mother taught high school classes in home economics. Aprons were a favorite project–easy to cut and sew, and I seem to recall her telling me that this apron was one that a student left behind.  The hook and eye at the neck don’t work, and while the pinafore style offers lots of protection, mother had safety pins stuck in the shoulders, where she would pin it to her dress, since the student didn’t quite finish her project. There is no waist-tie.

Home Made Grandma apron

Home Made Grandma apron

As I said, aprons are an easy sewing project. And when I was a young mother I frequently made Christmas presents.  One year I made aprons for everyone in the family.  The two grandmothers–Harriette Kaser and Agnes Badertscher got this apron–“Grandma’s Helping Hands” with the hand prints of my two young sons (before the third came along).

Paul Kaser in apron

Paul Kaser in apron

I really had to laugh when I came across the pictures of my father and my Uncle Bill Anderson carving turkeys.  What sports, to wear those frilly aprons.

Bill Anderson in an apron

Bill Anderson in an apron


Lucky for them, in the 1960s when backyard barbeques became essential equipment for every home, and men reverted to their caveman roots, Man Aprons became the rule of the day. Here are two that my Father got as Christmas presents.


Grandpa Paul Kaser's apron

“Grandpa” Paul Kaser’s apron

Paul Kaser's Man Apron

Paul Kaser, griller, had his Man Apron




Before there were cute cat videos, there was the awesomely popular Garfield–the original Grumpy Cat. And even before that there was B. Kliban drawing CATS.

And my boys (three now, with hands much bigger than those on the grandma aprons, gave me a MomCat apron for Christmas. Years later, I learned that my sister Paula’s boys had given her the same apron.

Mom Cat Apron

Mom Cat Apron, design by B. Kliban

I want to mention one more apron that means a lot to me, although when somebody inherits it, they won’t recognize the reason I was so attached.  It has the logo of Roll Call printed at the top. Roll Call is the “neighborhood newspaper” for Congress and all the staff of the Members of Congress. When I was working for a congressman, I entered a cooking contest that Roll Call held, and was invited to the cookoff in Washington on Capitol Hill.

You can find the recipe here, because I baked Killer Corn Bread.  Each contestant was given an apron, and that’s the one in my drawer.  But I did not actually wear it during the cookoff. That’s because a Senator who was one of the judges wanted an apron and they had run out.  A manager of the cookoff asked me if they could borrow mine. I said only if the Senator signed the apron and returned it to me.  He agreed.

Roll Call apron

Roll Call apron. Bogie looks dubious.

The signature of Patrick Moynihan scrawled boldly across the front of the apron is almost illegible now, because, foolishly, I wore the apron to cook in, and I washed it.  Unfortunately, the pen he used was not waterproof.  I can still see a few strokes, and I can still remember how delighted I was to meet the famous Senator.

If you have forgotten who Senator Moynihan was and what he did for the United States–I suggest you look him up.  I was not of his political party, and yet I believe he was one of the most intelligent and creative legislators we ever had in this country.

Apron signed by Patrick Moynihan

See that double loop down in the right corner? That’s It! That is the signature of Daniel Patrick Moynihan. What? You can’t see it?

And that’s my thanks to the aprons.