Upstairs at the Roosevelts: Growing Up with Franklin and Eleanor

By Curtis Roosevelt | Go to book overview

1
My Twelve Years in the White House

The question most frequently asked of me is, “What was life like in the White House?” A response saying that it was “wonderful, fantastic, unforgettable and yet a disaster” only provokes a host of other questions. Until I wrote my book Too Close to the Sun: Growing Up in the Shadow of My Grandparents, Franklin and Eleanor, I hadn’t thought too closely about this extraordinary experience of mine. But then I had to buckle down and think it through. I did, and a lot of illusions went out the window.

Twelve years is a long time in the life of a child.

In 1933 I was a toddler, three years old, when we went to live in the White House. By 1945, when my grandfather, President Roosevelt, died, I was just fifteen. The White House had proved a steady series of events, punctuated by an equally steady stream of visitors. During those twelve years, circulating within that hothouse of bustling politics, I met a lot of people. By the age of fifteen, I had met everybody from Winston Churchill to Mary Martin!

I listened and absorbed, especially when I was old enough, at age nine, to be included with the adults at mealtimes. It was my education—far more important than any formal one I have had. By fifteen I was quite sophisticated politically. I could converse easily with the many guests at the dining table. But usually I was “seen and not heard,” as was consid-

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