Earlier this month, President Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea virtually convened top government, public health and philanthropic leaders as part of the Clinton Foundation’s 12th annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) where university students from around the globe tackle the most pressing issues facing society. Obviously with COVID-19’s rampant growth as a global pandemic, the CGIU focused solely on this issue and even included President Clinton interviewing Governors Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom.
At the end of the interview, in a touching moment, Governor Cuomo told Bill Clinton that he missed him.
I understand the Governor’s sentiment! I’ve missed President Clinton too, so I was glad to hear that he had been busy preparing for this important initiative. Admittedly, I was starting to wonder and even worry a little about what he was doing to keep himself occupied at home during COVID-19.
Up until COVID-19 reared its ugly head, I had a pretty good idea of what he was up to thanks to the Chappaqua Moms Facebook page which has always offered a bevy of Clinton sightings and updates. But lately there was hardly any news about him besides a recent pizza delivery from the Clintons to several Westchester-based hospitals.
Pre-COVID-19, I knew that he liked to take a pre-dinner stroll up and down our many hills which can rival San Francisco’s. He had a regular route which is often documented in photos on Facebook and selfies with town residents meeting him on his walk. Everyone had a chance for a photo from merchants to eager Girl Scouts to construction workers – he believes in equal opportunity for all as long as you ask politely and chat with him. That’s what he likes best.
I know he hasn’t frequented one of his favorite local restaurants, Le Jardin du Roi, lately where he usually holds court on one of the first warm days of spring when the dining turns al fresco on their terrace as soon as it hits 70 degrees. There are tons of photos taken with other customers and wait staff anytime he goes there. He’s always willing to oblige and take photos with everyone from crying babies to garrulous bartenders and he makes it a point of taking the time to connect with each person. He’s the ultimate non-social distancer.
Perhaps he’s taking advantage of their take out menu but I do hope he sends someone else out to get it since his age makes him high-risk. I’m willing and able if he’d like. All he has to do is send me a Facebook messenger post.
He hasn’t stopped by our Starbucks lately which has its doors downtown shuttered. This is probably his number one photo backdrop in town as my Facebook feed attests. Everyone from high school athletes to septuagenarians has photos of him here. When there was a Dunkin Donuts in town, I almost wanted to abandon my loyalty to the brand just so I could get a photo of myself with him there. I even plotted my drink order- skinny hot chocolate as I wouldn’t be caught dead drinking their (in my opinion) bitter coffee.
Miracle of Miracles: My Photo Op
But then one day it happened. There’s a sense in my town that you know you are a true Chappaqua resident when you’ve snapped a photo with him. It was a Sunday night around 6:30 pm in May and I had bathed and fed my three young kids, bribing them with Carvel if they cooperated. It was an odd time to be driving in downtown Chappaqua which in totality is probably less than a mile but then I spotted him with his unmistakable thick white mane walking by the Citibank on my right. Excitedly I rolled down the window and with all my Queens moxie shouted, “President Clinton, I’ve lived here five years and I have been dying to take a photo with you.” He stopped in his tracks as I pulled closer to the curb and he looked closer at my car.
Unbeknownst to me there were Secret Service cars across the street but I guess my big SUV with various camp and sports team magnets looked harmless enough. “Sure, let’s do this,” he replied.
My heart was beating fast. “Well, I have three young kids with me,” I said and some were still strapped in their infant car seats. “I can take them out,” I said.
“No need for all that trouble,” he said. “I’ll just open the door and stick my head in,” he said. Dear God, he’s going to see all the Cheerios splayed out on the car floor, I thought to myself. Oh well and he swung open the door but before we took the photo, he conversed with my kids. My son was wearing a dinosaur pajama top and he asked him about his favorite dinosaurs. My daughter and him had an animated conversation about Elmo and my infant baby remained oblivious to all of the hoopla. He asked how long I had lived in town and where we were going.
I had finally gotten our selfie. I thanked him profusely and he told us all to enjoy our ice cream. We did and as I finished my cone, I posted the pic to Facebook which has been one of my most well liked photos. Once we got that first photo, my luck changed and I’ve since been able to capture photos of him and my kids in town and at my husband’s town baseball team playoffs.
After the 2016 election, Bill and Hillary took several walks on our town’s beautiful hiking trails that are normally filled with solitude. Reporters came out in full force though trying to track them down on one of their woodsy walks to see if they could get an interview or photograph. I often wonder if that’s where Bill is spending his time now that CGIU is over – walking in the woods but then I have second thoughts. He craves human connection like most of us and if he runs into someone, well a photo op or selfie just may be too tempting. Maybe now that CGIU finished, he’ll have time to binge watch “Tiger King” like the rest of us regular folks stuck at home. Or not….