Lifestyle & Human Interest

Barbara Bush's Handmade Christmas Gift for the Great-Grandchildren She Didn't Live To Meet


Christmas is a time that brings families together like no other season does.

For many, that means lengthy recountings of the year’s goings-on, late-night chats about current events and enough hugs and kisses to get you through the next year.

But when a loved one passes away, especially someone so pivotal as a grandmother or great-grandmother, there’s a void that cannot be ignored.

A seat empty, a traditional Christmas meal that is missing that special touch — the list goes on.

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Former first lady Barbara Bush made sure that she would live on in the memory of her family by leaving a tangible reminder of her love: Before her death, she made a bunch of needlepoint stockings for her great-grandchildren — some of whom she’d never meet.

She passed away in April 2018, but she was not forgotten. Jenna Bush Hager said that the gift her grandmother left was “a beautiful thing,” but she wasn’t sure there would be enough for her newest addition, Hal.

“I know that through my grandparents letters and their stories and the way that they raised us, he’ll get to know them,” she told People, explaining that her third child was born after she lost her remaining grandparents.

“I found out I was pregnant the week after my grandfather died, and I lost my three living grandparents in one year,” she said, adding that her son is “the first baby that won’t get to meet these people that were such an important part of my life.”

“But, I will say, and this is such a beautiful thing — my grandmother, my dad’s mom, needlepointed a lot of stockings, reserves, for great-grandchildren that would be after she died.”

These stockings are quite a permanent Christmas installation and a project that Hager remembers her grandma pouring herself into.

“When I imagine my Ganny, I think of her hands busy (usually her mouth too) as she meticulously needlepointed,” Hager wrote for Southern Living last year. “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.”

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“The void Ganny left is enormous; her place at the table will never be filled,” she continued. “I miss her jokes and laughter. I even miss her arguing with me about my love of cats.”

“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.”

When it came to baby number three, born Aug. 2, it was unclear if there were enough stockings left for him to have one, too.

“I didn’t know if there was enough for Hal,” Hager shared with People. “And so my aunt just emailed me on Friday and said, ‘What address should I send Hal’s stocking to?'”

“What a beautiful blessing and what a beautiful thing that she did so that all three of my kids will have made,” she concluded.

“[Hal] will never [meet] her, but they’re so ingrained, I mean, literally in this case, in the fabric of our family — that he’ll have a stocking that his great-grandmother sewed.”

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