Zilch. Every. Dang. Year.
We’ve entered the White House Easter Egg Roll lottery for years now, hoping each time that we would be one of 35,000 families lucky enough to get tickets to play on the South Lawn, to post those glorious Facebook pictures in front of the South Portico.
And every year, we came up snake eyes. Until now. Yesss!
And this was the year to win, not only because the boys are reaching tweendom, when eye-rolling will replace egg rolling and this will only be another occasion for me to embarrass them. But because it was the last chance we’ll have to celebrate the holiday at the White House during the historic Obama presidency.
It was a common sentiment among families at the egg roll and bittersweet for many.
“The truth is, we may not see this again in our lifetime, an African American family in the White House,” said Carla Backus, 51, a federal worker from Temple Hills, Md.
“With all the backlash, with all the bitterness they endured. It was important for us to be there today. It was emotional,” said Backus, who came with her 9-year-old son, Robert Richardson. “It’s important for me that my son see people who look like us in the White House.”
For more than a century, the White House Easter Egg Roll has commanded a special place on Washington’s calendar and in the hearts of people from around the region.
This year’s egg roll was even a little memorable (and frightening). The White House was put on lockdown Monday afternoon; visitors were briefly not allowed to leave or enter 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue after a shooting at the Capitol Visitor Center. Capitol Police opened fire on a man with a gun; a suspect was taken into custody and a bystander was injured, police said.
There wasn’t that much drama at the first White House Easter Egg Roll, held in 1878, after Congress passed legislation banning children from rolling eggs — this was a really big thing back then — on the Capitol lawn because they shredded the turf.
So in the eternal game of executive vs. legislative chess, President Rutherford B. Hayes invited the District’s children to play on his lawn.
Take that, Congress.
It became a tradition for decades after that, with brief suspensions during wars or tough times. And for all those years, it was notoriously white event. In 1953, first lady Mamie Eisenhower saw black children peering in from outside the White House gates and insisted that black families be included in events in the following years.
In 2006, a coalition of gay and lesbian families, sick of hiding in plain sight, joined to make their presence known at one of America’s most family-friendly events and to show the George W. Bush administration that they are no different from other American families.
Hundreds of gay and lesbian parents waited in line overnight — it used to be that the general public could snag tickets after camping out all night on the Ellipse — to get a good chunk of tickets. They wore rainbow leis to call attention to themselves, but otherwise did what every other American family does at the event — they smiled, suffered in long lines, rolled eggs and took a bazillion pictures.
First lady Michelle Obama knows how much has changed in the 10 years since then.
“Today is a little bit bittersweet for us, because this is the Obama administration’s last Easter Egg Roll,” the first lady said, as the crowd “awwwed” back to her.
“Yes. And if we think about what we’ve accomplished over these past seven years, it’s pretty incredible,” she said. “Because when Barack and I first got here, one of the goals that we had was to open up the White House to as many people from as many backgrounds as possible.”
Mission accomplished. There were families from all 50 states on the lawn Monday and from every racial and ethnic background. But it was especially powerful for the African American families in attendance.
Theresa Mattison, 60, drove all night from Michigan.
“We really wanted to be here. And we wanted her to be here, too, to be able to say she was here,” Mattison said, pointing to her 18-month-old granddaughter, Luna.
A retired school principal from Detroit, Mattison had never been to the White House before.
For lots of African Americans, the connection to the nation’s seat of power has never been more tangible. More emotional.
“It’s hard to believe he won’t be there next year,” Backus said, after she stepped outside the last of the White House gates and looked back. “I’d like to come back again next year. But it won’t be the same.”
Because next year, who knows?
As we waited in line to take a picture with some yellow Minions, my 9-year-old saw a woman wearing a hijab.
“Do you think Muslims will be allowed to come here next year?” he asked.
His older brother rolled his eyes.
“If Trump wins, it might be like the ‘Hunger Games,’ and kids might have to fight each other for the eggs,” the 11-year-old snarked, about Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump.
Or if Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton wins, the egg roll might be another chance to witness another ground-breaking president.
Read more Petula Dvorak: