In an op-ed written for Southern Living, Jenna Bush Hager reminisced about the past Thanksgivings and Christmases she was able to spend with the “North Star” of their family, Barbara Bush.
Barbara, the longtime wife of former President George H. W. Bush, passed away earlier this year on April 17.
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I already miss this FORCE of a woman— the “enforcer” because she was the glue that held our family together. She taught me to use my voice but also to value the opinions of others. She adored her friends and family; her loyalty was unwavering. Humor helps, she often said and it does, Gans, but I will miss your laugh terribly. She adored my Gampy, the first man she ever kissed; their love story is so engrained in the history of our family. Thinking of my Gampy tonight —no doubt missing his beloved desperately. Gans, people stopped me all the time to tell me how much they loved you. I didn’t mind sharing you with them. I love you more than tongue can tell, my Ganny.
She was 92 years old.
Jenna wrote for Southern Living:
Growing up, Christmas was about tamales, guacamole, caroling, and cousin skits. But mostly, it was all about family, and it centered around our grandparents, our North Stars.
When they were President and First Lady, our huge, rambunctious crew of uncles, aunts, and cousins traveled from all over— Texas, Florida, Virginia, and Maryland—descending upon the White House for the holiday. On Christmas Eve, we drove to Camp David, the Presidential retreat in Maryland. The cabins, named after the trees in the area (Aspen, Red Oak, Maple, Elm), were just the right size for each of our families. We gathered in the main cabin, Laurel Lodge, for good food and plenty of laughter.
This year will be the first year that the Bush family will have to celebrate the holiday season without Barbara being the driving force behind the celebrations.
However, as Jenna revealed, her “Ganny” thought ahead when it came to one very important holiday tradition:
When I imagine my Ganny, I think of her hands busy (usually her mouth too) as she meticulously needlepointed. She worked on many projects, but her most precious were stockings for her great-grandchildren. My daughters, Mila and Poppy, hang their own each year with care. Mila’s is traditional, with her name stitched in cursive next to poinsettias; Poppy’s has a Christmas cat watching Santa suspiciously, as only cats do.
Luckily for the great-grandbabies who are on the way, or will be on the way in the future, they won’t have to miss out on having one of their great-grandmother’s special stockings.
As Jenna mentioned on the Today Show, Ganny stitched a bunch of stockings for her future great-grandbabies.
She wrote for Southern Living:
Ganny left so much of herself here. And up until the last year of her life, she needlepointed feverishly. She wanted to make sure there were stockings on reserve for great-grandchildren who would come after she was gone. That was our Ganny: She wanted to leave the world a little more beautiful through her work, her words, and even her needlepoint stockings.
This Christmas, our first without Ganny, I’m nostalgic for the days when we were together. This time of year is full of love, but for those who have recently lost someone, that loss is illuminated.
She also shared a letter her grandfather wrote to his mom after their 3-year-old daughter, Robin, passed away:
There is about our house a need. There is a running, pulsating restlessness of the four boys as they struggle to learn and grow; the world embraces them…all this wonder needs a counterpart. We need some starched crisp frocks to go with all our torn-kneed blue jeans and helmets. We need some soft blond hair to offset those crew cuts. We need a legitimate Christmas angel….
Jenna said her whole family firmly believes their Christmas angel was the first one to greet Barbara in heaven.