Prather’s Pick: Bush twins share memories in new book
April 17, 2018
This week's autobiography, "Sisters First: Stories from our Wild and Wonderful Life," was written by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush. The book's foreword was written by Laura Bush.
It is a book of memories shared by the twins, of childhood and beyond, including the White House years, when their grandfather and father served as president of the United States. The reader will learn about the bond between the sisters and, just as importantly, the emphasis the Bush family put on time spent together and teaching their children about life's values.
Jenna and Barbara, fraternal twins, were born Nov. 25, 1981. They were given their grandmothers' names — Barbara for Barbara Bush, who would become first lady of the United States, and Jenna, from Jenna Welch, mother of Laura Bush.
The chapters in the book alternate, with memories from one twin, then the other. For example, Jenna remembers Pa and Grammee, Laura's parents, who lived in Midland, Texas. Pa had served in the 104th Infantry, known as the Timberwolves, in Europe. She remembers the day she and Barbara were looking through a box of photos and found black-and-white photos of bodies taken when he was helping liberate a Nazi death camp. It was something Pa didn't want to talk about, so he left Grammee to explain the details to the girls.
Pa was always smiling, and Jenna remembers he said "Happy Days" to small calamities, like spilling milk. He was patient, too, stopping the car to retrieve a tissue box she had thrown out the window on one outing. Sadly, Pa began to lose his memory and died when the girls were 13.
The twins were young enough to not remember much about their grandfather running in the presidential election. However, in "Home Port," Barbara remembers summers in the 1990s, when the huge Bush family spent time away from politics at Kennebunkport, Maine. Their famous grandfather, Gampy, especially enjoyed racing his boat, "Fidelity," through the water, stopping occasionally to view the seals and porpoises or to fish.
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Barbara remembers that Ganny, as Grandmother Barbara Bush was known, made the rules, which hung on the back of the bedroom door. The bedroom, better known as "Girls' Dormitory," was in the attic, where there was a line of twin beds. Since there were 13 cousins, a lot of kids slept there. In the morning they all raced to their grandfather and grandmother's bedroom and jumped into bed with them.
The girls also remember a time when Gampy took them to the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. During the performance, their grandfather stood in the middle of the dirt floor and threw a tall top hat into the ring. They were kindergartners, so they didn't realize he was "throwing his hat into the ring." (This had been done by candidates before.) Barbara got a souvenir stuffed animal at the circus, a white tiger she named "Spikey."
Spikey became a constant companion, and Barbara couldn't sleep without him. One night, after they had played all day at their grandparents' house, Barbara couldn't find Spikey. She was devastated. Even though it was the eve of a presidential debate, George H.W.Bush gave up preparation for the event and went outdoors to find Spikey. Imagine, "Operation Spikey," when Gampy and Secret Service agents, all armed with flashlights, hunted for the stuffed animal. The next morning, it was found under a window. In later years, Spikey traveled in Barbara's suitcase as she helped campaign for her father. The tiger had become a good luck talisman.
These are but a sampling of memories in this autobiography, including the White House years, when the twins' father was president of the United States. Also included are their college years, when the tabloids reported teenage mistakes, some of them not so accurately.
This is a great read! "Sisters First" is published by Grand Central Publishing (2017) and costs $28 in hardcover. The book can also be found with new books at the Craig Moffat County Library.