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Obamas plan casual Chicago Memorial Day weekend with friends

WASHINGTON–The Obama family, finally, return to Sweet Home Chicago for the Memorial Day weekend.

The last time the family — Obama, first lady Michelle, Malia, 11 and Sasha, 8 — were back at their home on South Greenwood was over Valentine’s Day weekend 2009. Obama made two quick day trips last summer, not staying overnight.

If anyone thought that the Kenwood community would host a Chicago White House — and some people did — well, they were very disappointed.

I’m told the Obama family is planning a casual weekend with friends. President Obama will throw in some work; on Monday, Obama will deliver a Memorial Day address at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, near Joliet, about 50 miles south of Chicago.

When Obama was elected, he envisioned frequent visits back home that never materialized. In December 2008, then President-elect Obama said he expected to return “as often as possible, my expectation would be that, depending on what my schedule looks like, you know, we’re going to try to get back here at least once every six weeks or couple of months.”

It turned out that the first couple was so eager to embrace Washington — and get Sasha and Malia settled in a new school with new friends — that Chicago visits just never happened. Besides, the Chicago pals — of the Obamas and their kids’ friends — were just as happy to hang at the White House or Camp David, the presidential retreat. Last summer, Chicago buddy Marty Nesbitt and his family even rented a place in Washington for a short time just to be nearby.

The Obama home will be a historic site whether or not the Obamas ever live there full time again. Last January, I asked Mrs. Obama why they never came home. She said, “Just tell Chicago, ‘nothing personal.’ It’s kids.”

The Obama Valentine’s Day return did cause some tumult, Mrs. Obama noted. South Lake Shore Drive closed for their motorcade, and security officials restricted access to streets near the house. Mrs. Obama, who said she missed shopping at the Target on Roosevelt Road, added, “It’s really life and the fact that the kids have built a life here and that’s good and right now I want to encourage that life and not keep pulling them out. So it’s less our schedules than them. Who’s got kids? They dictate the weekend.”

When the Obamas get home, they will find the home next door empty; their former neighbors, Bill and Jacky Grimshaw, moved out after selling their place for $1.4 million, and the new owners planned extensive renovations before moving in. The bidding war the Grimshaws hoped for over their home never occurred. While federal representatives looked at the Grimshaw house, the government did not go ahead with a purchase.