By Lana Turnbull
After watching the service for First Lady Barbara Bush and hearing the heartfelt testimonials about the person she was…her toughness, her kindness, her signature pearls, her mismatched Keds, it occurred to me she was the perfect example of not just a First Lady, but a real lady.
When I was growing up, before I went anywhere in public I couldn’t leave the house without a parental reminder to “act like a lady.” That meant saying yes ma’am and no ma’am, thank you ma’am and please. It meant asking to be excused before leaving the table and always thanking the hostess before leaving a party. Of course it was understood that I was not to get dirty, misbehave or talk back.
The grownup ladies I knew wore white gloves almost everywhere, always carried handbags and frequently donned fancy hats – if they had the “hatness” to pull it off. But that was just what made them ladies on the outside. I would learn when I got older that those superficial lady characteristics could fool you, and what made a real lady was what was on the inside.
A real lady was always kind. She showed respect for everybody she met, not just the ones she played bridge with or sang in the choir with. A real lady didn’t have to be well to do or have a big house. Her “ladyship” was measured by her generosity and her civility. She wasn’t necessarily known for the words she used, but for the words she didn’t use. A real lady would never make anyone feel small or unimportant. And she was never cruel or catty.
A real lady didn’t have to serve frilly little cakes and pour tea from a silver teapot. But a real lady would show up with a casserole for a neighbor after a death or sickness in the family, or offer a thirsty stranger a glass of cold lemonade. A real lady didn’t have to be sugary sweet, but she was always gentle, and she could be strong and persistent and brave when she had to be. But most of all, a real lady didn’t take herself too seriously or judge others too harshly.
As we mourn the loss of the First Lady Barbara Bush, we’re also mourning the end of an era. A time when being a lady meant something important and brought something meaningful to our homes, our communities, and even the White House. When I think about it, the qualities of a real lady are the traits we can all aspire to. They’re the qualities we desperately need in American society today, and they’re the backbone behind what made this country great.
It’s been said that behind every great man is a great woman. (But that’s just what the ladies let them think.) It’s been the real ladies, leading the way all along. Real ladies are just too polite to point it out.