Politics & Government

Bush Center celebrates a storybook Christmas

The George W. Bush Presidential Center is taking a look back at a holiday season with A Season of Stories: Christmas at the White House 2003, in Dallas.
The George W. Bush Presidential Center is taking a look back at a holiday season with A Season of Stories: Christmas at the White House 2003, in Dallas. Star-Telegram

There’s nothing like a good story.

Especially one that takes you back to your childhood — or to reading to your children when they were little.

Curious George. Peter Pan. Alice in Wonderland.

Stuffed characters from these and other beloved childhood classics adorned the White House Christmas Tree in 2003, when then-President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush lived there.

Now those decorations — part of the “A Season of Stories” theme — are on display at the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

“Just like the holidays, great stories have a way of bringing families together,” Laura Bush said about choosing the White House Christmas theme in 2003.

The centerpiece of the display is an 18-foot tree decked out with stuffed versions of beloved characters from classics such as Clifford the Big Red Dog, Charlotte’s Web and The Velveteen Rabbit.

Red letters and gold and red balls and teardrop ornaments also hang from the tree. And books representing the characters displayed circle the tree on the floor.

Nearby, papier-mache versions of more treasured literary figures — including Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Harry Potter and the characters from Little Women — are also on display.

White House staffers spent months creating these characters, which were displayed on mantels and tables throughout the White House.

“It’s absolutely fabulous,” said Kay Henderson, a Plano woman who traveled to see the display Monday morning.

Love of literature

Laura Bush, a former librarian with a deep love of books, has long worked to instill a love of reading in others.

She has talked about how she and her husband often read to their twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna. And how that was part of the inspiration for the 2003 holiday theme.

Laura Bush actually borrowed the ornaments from her mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, who used them for her White House Christmas theme, “Christmas is a Storyland,” in 1989.

It brings back a lot of childhood memories.

Carol Brock, a teacher and collector of children’s books

“Laura Bush was initially hesitant to use a similar theme, but then realized that, just like stories, holiday decorations are shared between grandparents and grandchildren, and ‘it was really perfect to borrow these ornaments from Barbara and Jenna’s grandparents to put on the big tree,’ ” according to a sign posted in the presidential center.

Many walking through the display Monday morning agreed.

“I love it,” said Barbara Katz of Dallas. “I’m a children’s librarian, so it’s right up my alley.

“It’s beautiful.”

Carol Brock could hardly keep her eyes off the “book tree.”

“I think it’s well-done,” said Brock of Dallas, who teaches first- and second-graders and collects children’s books. “It brings back a lot of childhood memories.”

Not far from the tree, some of the presents the First Family received in 2003 are on display: a stocking in the shape of a cowboy boot, a needlepoint of Betsy Ross stitching a U.S. flag, a pewter ornament of Santa Claus and a Christmas tree and a trinket box shaped like a trunk.

The 2003 display will be open to the public through Jan. 3.

Also nearby are photos taken at Christmas events in 2003 and the evening gowns Laura Bush wore for White House Christmas parties that year.

Lamb of God

Each year the presidential center displays the decorations from a Christmas when the Bush family was in the White House.

It began in 2013 with the 2001 “Home for the Holidays” display and followed last year with the 2002 “All Creatures Great and Small” display.

The 2003 display will be open to the public through Jan. 3. Tickets are required.

Each year, the Bush center sells new Christmas tree ornaments.

In 2013, it was a bright red cardinal sitting on a branch; last year it was mockingbird. Both were images taken from paintings created by the former president.

This year, the inspiration for the ornament came from another painting by the former president — a sleeping lamb entitled Lamb of God.

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

George W. Bush Presidential Center

The center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. It is closed three days a year — Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Tickets for adults are $16, seniors $13, youths 13-17 $14, youths 5-12 $10, non-SMU college students $13 and retired military $10. There is no charge for children younger than 5, SMU students and active members of the military.

Source: George W. Bush Presidential Center

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