Dodge ball, bologna tra-la-las, chicken-wire floats, ice skating on the tennis courts.
Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 50th birthday fest turned into a nostalgic trip through her past Monday that retraced the steps of an idyllic childhood in an Ozzie and Harriet home town.
From that daunting walk to kindergarten on the first day of school to the day she got kicked out of high school history class for laughing, the first lady explored her past and let America look in.
Standing outside the two-story Georgian home where she grew up in this Chicago suburb, the first lady mused aloud, “I can hear in the back of my head all the yells and screams of all of us playing here all those years ago.”
“Kids still need the same things we got on the corner of Wisner and Elm.”
The birthday blitz had an almost surreal quality to it: The first lady and friends stretching back to grammar school tooled around the quiet, tree-lined streets of Park Ridge in a caravan that stretched to more than a dozen buses and cars.
Before noon, she had been serenaded with the birthday song four times, two cities (Chicago and Park Ridge) had proclaimed it “Hillary Rodham Clinton Day” and the corner of Elm and Wisner had been renamed “Rodham Corner.” She actually turned 50 on Sunday.
The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce produced a slick, 20-page pamphlet on the first lady’s early years titled, “Hillary: A Chicago Celebration.” A Chicago park was renamed in her honor. A documentary film crew taped the whole thing for a special on cable TV’s A&E; channel.
The first lady’s trip back in time began with a visit at Eugene Field School, where she and a dozen former classmates and teachers gathered to reminisce, coaxed along by the questions of historian Carl Anthony.
There were more birthday events to come: President Clinton flew in for an evening bash for more than 500 friends at the Chicago Cultural Center, where the first lady was feted with a 300-pound, 6-foot-high birthday cake.
The president tweaked his wife’s long-running birthday fest by saying: “She’s still celebrating it as if she’s going to hold on for dear life. Whatever she wants to do, I’m for it.”