CHICAGO — Good friends, good food and the comforts of his own home.
President Barack Obama enjoyed all three when he brought his family home to Chicago for a long Memorial Day holiday weekend. It was the first family’s first sleepover at their red-brick home in more than a year.
Obama’s only public appearance Sunday was for a roundtrip to a private gym for a workout. Top advisers also updated him on efforts to manage the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
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The president was due back at the White House on Monday after paying respects to the nation’s war dead during Memorial Day observances at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Ill., south of Chicago.
Some veterans groups have criticized Obama, who has sent tens of thousands of troops into a ramped-up war in Afghanistan, for skipping the traditional wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. Obama helped lay a wreath at Arlington last year but this year has handed the honor to Vice President Joe Biden.
Obama spoke at the Lincoln cemetery on Memorial Day in 2005.
Before taking office in January 2009, Obama expressed a desire to visit his $1.6 million home in the city’s Hyde Park neighborhood about every six weeks.
“Our friends are here. Our family is here. We are going to try to come back here as often as possible … at least once every six weeks or couple of months,” he told the Chicago Tribune back then.
But the demands of the presidency and his daughters’ busy schedules of weekend soccer and basketball games, birthday parties and sleepovers have thwarted his intentions.
First lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha, Obama’s mother-in-law Marian Robinson and family dog Bo arrived in Chicago on Thursday night.
On Friday, Obama interrupted his getaway to visit the Louisiana coast for an update on efforts to stop the flow of oil into the Gulf. He also sought to assure coastal residents, and others unhappy with the federal government’s response to the nation’s largest oil spill, that he is in command.
Back in Chicago on Saturday, Obama indulged in one of his favorite sports — a game of basketball — at the University of Chicago Lab School where his daughters were enrolled when the family lived in Chicago.
A member of the group of reporters that travels with Obama also briefly saw Mrs. Obama in the backyard of their home, wearing yellow rubber gloves. The reporters were stationed nearby to await word on Obama’s next move.
That word came just before the family took a rare stroll down the now-barricaded public streets surrounding Obama’s house to the home of neighbor and friend Marty Nesbitt for a backyard barbecue. They stayed until after dark. The Obamas, including a casually dressed, sandal-clad president and Bo, were joined by Mrs. Robinson, her son Craig, his wife Kelly and their new baby.