Obama family makes rare trip home to Chicago
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CHICAGO - For the first time in two years, President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and their daughters enjoyed the comforts of their Chicago home together.
Their presence sent a ripple of excitement through Hyde Park, their south Chicago neighborhood, which was also gearing up for a high-profile backyard wedding the Obamas were expected to attend Saturday night.
"I took pictures of every black car in the motorcade and waved to every one of them because I didn't know which the president was in," said excited neighbor Mary Ann Smothers, who was hoping to catch a glimpse of the president at his home.
"I want to see the dress Michelle Obama wears to the wedding tonight," she said Saturday.
The Obamas' visit coincides with the wedding of close friend and top Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett's daughter, to be held a short distance from the Obama residence. The White House has not confirmed the Obamas will be among the guests. There were no public events announced for their weekend stay in Chicago.
Jarrett, a Chicago attorney, is a member of Obama's inner-most circle, and her daughter, Laura, is marrying Harvard Law graduate Tony Balkissoon.
The Jarretts' backyard was being transformed for the wedding Saturday, a large white awning rising from behind the handsome, two-story brick home.
The Obamas — including 13-year-old Malia, 11-year-old Sasha and Michelle Obama's mother, Marian Robinson— arrived Friday evening. They took a helicopter from O'Hare International Airport to a park east of Lake Shore Drive, and then rode in a motorcade to their home. Onlookers waved and took pictures. One woman held a sign that said "Welcome home," and another waved an American flag.
On the windshield of a Chevy parked in a driveway near the Obama home, a sign read "Thank you for saving GM," referencing the auto industry bailout.
His national popularity may have taken a hit over the economy and other issues, but being back among friends gave Obama a welcome break from the bruising campaign trail and election-year politics.
Neighbors had to put up with extra security measures this weekend, in addition to the permanent security barrier around Obama's home.
Meghan Sullivan, 26, who lives in a co-op a block away, said she had to remind new residents to take their ID cards and proof of address with them so they could pass the police check.
"A lot of them don't have their addresses on their driver's licenses so they have to take mail with them," she said, drinking a cup of coffee on her front porch. "My friend said it's a pain in the butt, but then you think about the leader of the free world is sleeping a block away and it's pretty cool."
Late Saturday morning, an F-15 fighter jet escorted a small, single-engine aircraft out of restricted airspace over the Chicago area. The North American Aerospace Defense Command wouldn't comment on the reason for the temporary flight restriction, but airspace is routinely restricted around events involving the president.