China Trip Offers Rare Glimpse of First Grandmother Marian Robinson

PHOTO: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, center left, poses for photos with Chinese President Xi Jinping, center right, at the Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing, March 21, 2014.

She is rarely seen, but Marian Robinson, mother of first lady Michelle Obama, is a major presence in the Obama household.

On this year's spring break trip to China, Robinson accompanied her daughter and granddaughters Sasha and Malia on the soft-power diplomatic mission.

Back in 2008, Robinson was a somewhat reluctant transplant to the White House.

Actually, her son, Craig Robinson, described her as having been dragged "kicking and screaming" into the presidential fishbowl.

Friends and family told the Chicago Tribune that Robinson, now 76, simply preferred to live in her own home and away from the constant media attention.

Since then, however, she has been something of a second mother to her grandchildren and has managed to stay far from the media spotlight that the other Obama family members often live in.

Occasionally, however, you can spot her when she accompanies the first family on foreign trips like the one they took to Africa last year, and she can be seen at White House Christmas events, and at the occasional college basketball game to watch son Craig coach the Oregon State team.

PHOTO: U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, front left, her daughters Sasha, front right, Malia, right in the back, and Michelle Obamas mother Marian Robinson, left in the back, arrive at Capital International Airport in Beijing, March 20, 2014.
Alexander F. Yuan/AP Photo
PHOTO: U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, front left, her daughters Sasha, front right, Malia, right in the back, and Michelle Obama's mother Marian Robinson, left in the back, arrive at Capital International Airport in Beijing, March 20, 2014.

PHOTO: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama applauds as she and her daughters and mother watch a Peking opera performance with a group of American schoolchildren who are visiting China during their spring break, at the Summer Palace in Beijing, March 22, 2014.
Alexander F. Yuan/AP Photo
PHOTO: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama applauds as she and her daughters and mother watch a Peking opera performance with a group of American schoolchildren who are visiting China during their spring break, at the Summer Palace in Beijing, March 22, 2014.

PHOTO: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, her daughters and mother watch a performance on the top of an ancient city wall in Xian, in northwestern Chinas Shaanxi province, March 24, 2014.
Alexander F. Yuan/AP Photo
PHOTO: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, her daughters and mother watch a performance on the top of an ancient city wall in Xi'an, in northwestern China's Shaanxi province, March 24, 2014.

PHOTO: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, center, visits Qinshihuang Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum with her daughters mother in Xian, in northwestern Chinas Shaanxi province, March 24, 2014.
Alexander F. Yuan/AP Photo
PHOTO: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, center, visits Qinshihuang Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum with her daughters mother in Xi'an, in northwestern China's Shaanxi province, March 24, 2014.

PHOTO: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, center left, poses for photos with Chinese President Xi Jinping, center right, at the Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing, March 21, 2014.
Andy Wong/AP Photo
PHOTO: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, center left, poses for photos with Chinese President Xi Jinping, center right, at the Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing, March 21, 2014.

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