I am so saddened to learn about the passing of Barbara Bush. She has been a personal inspiration to me for two very specific reasons that I’d like to share here that were encapsulated in this one excerpt:
In 1980, George ran for president. There were endless receptions, luncheons, dinners and fundraisers. For the campaign, Barbara had to choose an official cause. She picked literacy, which became a lifelong passion. “I realized everything I worried about” – teen pregnancy, hunger, homelessness, drug use, crime – “would be better if more people could read, write and comprehend,” she later recalled. She was also pressured to change her image, with some family members urging her to “color my hair, change my style of dressing and, I suspect, get me to lose some weight,” she later recalled, driving her to tears. Jane Pauley of NBC opened a television interview by asking her: “People say your husband is a man of the ’80s and you are a woman of the ’40s. What do you say to that?” Barbara, though stung, declined to alter her matronly image, which instead helped her become one of her husband’s most powerful political assets. A critic, Andrew Sullivan of The New Republic magazine, called her “America’s queen mother” whose “mastery of frumpy do-goodery is, of course, modeled on the Windsors.”
Since my first grey hair in my thirties, I have had remarks made, passive-aggressively and not infrequently in a very forthright manner, that I should color my hair. Some of these not-so-gentle suggestions came from (now former) friends, others from people in my family. I have never wanted to do so; it just isn’t me. The same with my manner of dress. I’ve never been one for trendy clothing and “keeping with the times.” Even so, I never considered Mrs. Bush to be “frumpy” simply because she dressed conservatively! Being called a “woman of the ’40s” is a compliment in my book!
Perhaps that all sounds trite, but for me it’s not. Society can be so cruel to women, yet she stayed true to who she is and didn’t cave in despite the pain she felt. That’s true character and beauty! When you add “do-goodery” you have a formidable force! I hope we, as a society, can reach a point where timeless grace trumps trendy glamour, and being a “goody goody” isn’t considered boring.
Reading is also dear to me because it’s what helped me through a difficult childhood, and inspired me to start writing at a young age. Wishy and I have been quietly working on a young children’s digital photo book about the joys of reading. (He truly is highly paid talent. He makes over 100 seeds an hour). Friends with little kids had been urging me to write a children’s book about the chipmunks. It was photos I had seen of Barbara and Laura reading to young children that gave me the inspiration for the storyline.
I also love this quote about a happy, long-lasting marriage, whether a “power couple” or “average”:
What counts most is not what’s going on around you, but rather what is going on inside you and your spouse or partner.
In addition to her friends and family, I know her church family at our summer church, St. Ann’s in Kennebunkport, will be grieving as they celebrate her life. They are all in our prayers.
RIP, Barbara Bush.