I just finished reading the book Sister’s First — Stories from our Wild and Wonderful Life by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush.
I picked up the book for two reasons — first, I’m a sucker for anything related to the Bush family, especially if it promises great stories about George and Barbara Bush.
Second, it’s the only memoir I know of that was written by two people, and my friend, Lisa, and I are having fun writing a memoir together, and we wanted to see how this book was structured.
The book did not disappoint on those two fronts.
A few gems that resonated with me:
Enjoy being in the game…
A couple of years ago in Maine, we were all sitting around the robin blue oval table that we’ve sat around for years having dinner — with Gampy at the head. The room was full of laughter. Everybody was talking, except for Gampy, and the conversation was ricocheting around the table. It started getting loud, and eventually he leaned over and in a hoarse voice, he whispered, ‘I miss this.’
And I asked, ‘What Gampy, what do you miss?’
And he looked around and said, ‘I loved being in the game. Don’t forget to enjoy being part of the game.’Barbara pierce Bush
I loved this story because it reminded me of my mom toward the end of her life. When all of our family was together, the pace and volume of the back and forth conversation was too much for her.
It frustrated her until she learned to just soak up the love and energy in the room, noticing how everyone enjoyed being together. She loved just looking around the room and relishing that everyone there was “hers.” But, it was hard to see her gradually switch from being a participant to a quiet observer.
So, I loved George Bush’s advice, “Don’t forget to enjoy being part of the game.” We all need to appreciate being part of the game!
Sister Love Story…
I confess that I wasn’t sure if I would like the sister “love story” aspect of the book. In the acknowledgments, they wrote, “Sisters First isn’t a typical memoir, but rather a love story we wrote to each other.” That sounded a little too schmaltzy and contrived to me.
However, I was surprised to like it more than I expected.
A beautiful paragraph written by Jenna toward the end of the book made me stop and think about the power of sisterhood — whether by blood or by friendship.
She said she was reflecting on a day when she picked up her daughter, Mila, from preschool and Mila asked, “Where is Poppy? I want Poppy-Lou,” referring to her sister.
“That night, I held my girls closely and listened to the patterns of their breathing until they were in sync, until they were one. You have each other, I thought to myself, You can walk through this wild and wonderful life together. You will fight, yes. And you will adapt to each other’s quirks, but you will do it together. You will make your sister feel like she is enough. And for me, your mama, well, that is enough. More than enough. That is everything.”Jenna Bush Hager
That really is everything, isn’t it? To have someone who makes you feel like you are enough? I thought of not just how my sister helps me feel that way, but how many of my dear girlfriends and now my daughters help me feel that way. I’m grateful that my daughters can write their own sister love stories now with not just each other but with their many female friends.
Live a life that’s worth it…
The last gem from this little book that I loved came from Barbara who wrote about a Burundian man who taught her that a birthday could be celebrated not just with a cake but by considering how, in the previous year, you had lived the best year that you could. And before you eat the cake, you have to share what you did for other people in that year.
You had to make a case that you were living in a way that was worth it, in a way that was giving to others. You are here for a reason, and you should be grateful for every year, and be ready to do the most [you can] with the next one.”Barbara Pierce Bush
With yet another birthday around the corner for me, I love the idea of considering whether I lived the best way I could in the last year, and earning a slice of birthday cake by reflecting on what I’ve done for other people.
So, thank you Barbara and Jenna for giving me some beautiful words of wisdom and some stories to remember about creating and appreciating a beautiful life.