What she has is a verve and joy for life that is palpable.
She was known for the elaborate Christmas parties she threw with her sister, where the elegant home was decorated like a Christmas fairy tale, and children in their best clothes (“No jeans!”) gathered around the tree while she read “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
“Not this year,” she says, looking around her big, beautiful, empty house. She will travel to see other family members instead. “It’s getting so difficult to keep the house up.”
The home was on the Washington party circuit, the kind of place the Obamas certainly would have visited had they been in Washington in the 1960s.
“I would really love to meet the first lady. I feel like we have so much in common,” Smith said.
Michelle Obama, the queen of England — anyone would be lucky to spend an afternoon as I did, in Therrell C. Smith’s company.
She is always thinking about the next event, the next party. It will be in 2013, for sure, when she celebrates the 65th anniversary of her school. “I already better start thinking of what we’re going to do,” she said.
I had to laugh when I read a comment she made almost 15 years ago to Post columnist Courtland Milloy. “Looking back over 50 years, I’ll tell you what, this is it, this is the last anniversary,” she told him.
“Ha!” she said when I reminded her of it. “No, I’m not going to retire anytime soon,” she said. She’s not going to stop with the celebrations and recitals and parties.
Even as test-prep clinics and math tutors take up more and more of our children’s time, as arts programs weaken and kids wear jeans to Christmas parties, Smith plans to keep on going.
“There is no stopping, no retirement,” she said. “I plan to just fade away.”
Follow me on Twitter at @petulad. To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/dvorak.