I get a huge kick out of seeing celebrities in person. When my husband-to-be was employed at NBC as a page, I would take the train to New York and meet him at Rockefeller Center which was a key site for catching vicarious glimpses of the rich and famous. In later years I worked at newspapers and got to shake hands with the politicians of the day. George Bush the elder was one of them. Once, hunched over my computer screen I heard a very familiar voice say “Doesn’t that bother your eyes?” and I replied, “Yes, Mr. Nader, it does.”

When I moved to Vermont I got to meet the cast of characters in these parts: Howard, Bernie, Pat, Jim and Madeleine. Not too many of the really big guys came through, though. They obviously considered our small size not worth the effort. But back to celebrity sightings and the tale of my cousin who hit the jackpot over a period of two days.

She was a member of the first Peace Corps group and as such, was invited, along with her class to the White House to meet President Kennedy who had been the fervent champion of the plan and was excited about seeing it get off the ground.

It was a beautiful spring day, she told me, and the ground was a little mushy. She was dressed in her best meet-the-president outfit which included very high high-heeled shoes. As the handsome young JFK came down the line, shaking hands and speaking with each volunteer, she realized her heels were starting to sink into the turf. And, sure enough, as he stuck out his hand, she keeled over backwards onto the White House lawn.

Gallantly he picked her up and reassured her saying, “It’s OK, it happens to my wife all the time.” To which she, absolutely mortified, replied, “Watch your back.”

The next day the group split up and headed for their assignments. My cousin’s was Ethiopia.

After a seemingly endless flight to and over the continent of Africa, the volunteers were told they were about to land at the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa where they would be greeted by the emperor, Haile Selassie. Correct manners and protocol were rehearsed and the group prepared to meet the powerful Ethiopian ruler.

Exhausted, unwashed and hungry, they were whisked directly from the plane to the palace. There they formed into a line and my cousin found herself, once again, moving slowly along to meet a major world figure.

Part of the earlier informational sessions had included the fact that two small dogs were always close by the emperor and would warn him if an assassin were present. My cousin spotted the dogs, sure enough, watching as the Peace Corps members moved along. Then, at her turn, they set up a mighty howl and the guards rushed forward. She thought to herself that it had been a really short adventure and she hoped to live to tell about it.

But the dogs were calmed down and the reception moved along without further incident.

She stayed in Africa for a fairly uneventful 2 ½ years and loved the experience.

She now lives in upstate New York and sells real estate. It’s pretty uneventful.

Oh, look, there goes Robert Redford!