Barbara Bush: A Mother to Us All
Barbara Bush passed away on April 17, 2018 at her home in Houston, Texas. She was 92. Barbara was the 41st First Lady of the United States. She was also the wife of George H. W. Bush, who served as the 41st President of the United States, and the mother of George W. Bush, who served as the 43rd President of the United States. During her tenure as First Lady, she led the way for universal literacy and founded the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.
Jeb Bush, son of Barbara Bush and former governor of Florida, joked that his mother’s method of child raising was “a benevolent dictatorship – but honestly, it wasn’t always benevolent.” To her family, she was known as the “Enforcer,” and to the Secret Service, well, they christened her “Tranquility.” Jonathan Wackrow, CNN law enforcement analyst and former agent with the U.S. Secret Service, notes that her codename “exemplified her demeanor and its calming, humanizing and gentle effect on those around her. She will forever be missed.”
Bush wrote in her 2003 memoir Reflections: Life After the White House, “At the end of your life you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child or a parent.”
It’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of life. It’s easier still to set aside those you love the most with the idea they will always be there. It’s important to remember that they may not be. Bush’s quote illustrates the importance of family and the fleeting moments we spend with loved ones. Life takes us in many directions, and sometimes you must dig your heels in and stop for a second. All parts of life are on a timer, and both the gift and tragedy of life is you never know when the final buzzer will sound.
In 1953, Barbara’s first daughter, Pauline Robinson Bush, whom she affectionately called “Robin”, died of leukemia at the age of 3. Shortly after, Barbara’s hair turned white prematurely. In a letter to the editor of the Fresno Bee, Maureen Dowd wrote, “She [Barbara] stopped coloring it in 1970, when a rinse called Fabulous Fawn began dripping in the heat, turning her neck brown.”
Dowd continues to write that Bush owned her silver fox look and created “an appealing, authentic persona dubbed ‘Greenwich Granite’ by Peggy Noonan.” Noonan is a Wall Street Journal columnist and won the Pulitzer Prize for her commentary in 2017.
“She is a strong woman, not ego-driven but protective of kith and kin. Those merry eyes, the warmth, the ability to get the help cracking in a jolly way and then not so jolly. A lack of pretension, a breeziness, but underneath she is Greenwich granite, one of the women who settled the hard gray shores of the East and summoned roses from the rocks.”
Bush was a role model for men and women alike as she stormed her charges with ease, confidence, and grace. In a world obsessed with image and Instagram likes, we could all do well to remember Barbara Bush’s fashion choices when she attended her husband’s 1989 inaugural ball. Bush donned fake pearls and a $29 pair of shoes. Often compared to the previous First Lady, Nancy Reagan, Bush was known for her stark differences regarding frugality.
“Please notice – hairdo, makeup, designer dress. Look at me good this week, because it’s the only week,” she was noted saying by Vanity Fair.
Her small, curt digs regarding her fashion choices and the importance of frugality could be attributed to the fact that when Nancy Reagan was First Lady, neither then Vice-President Bush or then Second Lady Bush were invited to attend a dinner at the White House residence, according to Maureen Dowd.
Bush’s quiet eloquence and stoic charm created a stature which made an entire generation fall in love with her. She was a fierce mother and grandmother and really, an example to us all.
We all mourn this kind and fierce woman.