First Family Footprints

President Obama and his family left the Vineyard on Sunday exactly the way they had arrived one week earlier: quietly and without fanfare. Shortly after four o’clock in the afternoon, the dark green Marine One chopper swung up and away from the Island, headed for the Coast Guard station in Bourne on Cape Cod where the Obamas would transfer to a waiting Air Force One to take them back to Washington, D.C. A handful of Islanders lined the West Tisbury Road to wave goodbye to the motorcade as it passed; overhead the sun began to break through a heavy cloud cover that had hung over the Island for two days.

And then the Presidential vacation was over.

The Obamas, in sharp contrast with the Clintons, who stayed on the Island longer and were out and about more, left only the lightest footprints behind.

You could trace a faint trail from the Summer White House at Blue Heron Farm in Chilmark to Oak Bluffs, where the Obamas went a few times, visiting their good friend and senior White House advisor Valerie Jarrett at her home on East Chop, once for cocktails before a quiet dinner out at the Sweet Life Cafe on Circuit avenue, another time at midday to eat seafood takeout that they had bought at Nancy’s restaurant. Fried shrimp was the menu item of choice.

Another trail led from Chilmark up to Aquinnah where the family rode bikes on Thursday morning, pedaling around Lobsterville on a sunny, breezy late summer day, framed by a tawny sweep of beach grass, the blue water of the Bight sparkling all around them. They ended up at the Gay Head Light for a history tour and a pause to gaze across the majestic view over the Atlantic Ocean.

There were footprints in the sand at Oyster Watcha, where the First Family went to the beach one afternoon during their visit.

There were thumb prints at Alley’s General Store and Garcia’s Bakery and Deli where the President, his daughters and niece blew through for candy, gum and an oatmeal cookie in a blink-of-an-eye stop on Sunday morning.

And there were divots on three Island golf courses left behind by a President who did manage to get in a good amount of time on the links. Mr. Obama played eighteen holes at Farm Neck on the first day of his vacation, nine holes at Mink Meadows the next day; two more rounds of eighteen holes at the Vineyard Golf Club on separate days rounded out the week.

The President’s scores were not made public, but in a story analyzing Mr. Obama’s golf game on Friday, The New York Times made an educated guess: probably in the high nineties. Not bad for a man whose first game is basketball and who has little or no time to work on his drives and putting.

Of course a President is never completely on vacation and that was true for Mr. Obama, whose planned week of downtime with his family was interrupted by his announcement about the reappointment of Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve Chairman, and then the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

Despite the interruptions, it appears that the Obamas did manage to have a family vacation.

And just as importantly, the Island did not sink beneath the weight of the Presidential entourage or the marauding national press corps, which descended with its usual tin ear for the way of life here, digging deep for extra stories while the president stayed home on the farm, and coming up mostly empty.

Islanders now turn their attention to September, as public schools prepare to open and the noise and clatter of summer, Summer White House and all, begins to fade. It’s time to go fishing.