Twin sisters Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush will turn 36 a week from Saturday, and for the first time in recent memory, they’ll be celebrating in different places.
“We’ve been together for our birthday almost every year for our whole life, just because it falls over Thanksgiving,” Jenna Bush Hager tells the Observer.
“But Jenna is gonna be with her husband’s family this year,” Barbara Pierce Bush chimes in.
They seem relatively at peace with this, however. That’s probably because, over the past few weeks, the former first daughters have had the opportunity to do quite a bit of celebrating – and have had a solid run of inseparability – thanks to their new autobiographical book “Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life” (Grand Central, $28).
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The book made a splash by debuting at No. 2 on the New York Times’ best sellers list earlier this month; for the past two weeks, the sisters have shared hotel rooms almost nightly while traversing the country to appear at ticketed events that allow them to expand on stories they wrote in it, as well as to go outside the lines with new ones.
Their “Sisters First” tour stops at 8 p.m. Friday at Spirit Square’s McGlohon Theatre in uptown Charlotte.
To refresh your memory, Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush are the fraternal twin daughters of former U.S. president George W. Bush (aka Bush 43) and the granddaughters of former president George H.W. Bush (aka Bush 41). Jenna was named after her maternal grandmother, Jenna Welch, and Barbara was named after her paternal grandmother, former First Lady Barbara Bush.
Their book – which they emphasize is not a political memoir – is a collection of adventures, anecdotes, tragedies and triumphs culled from an extra-extraordinarily unique childhood and young adulthood, with the overarching theme being the special sisterly bond that ties them together. The sisters wrote alternating chapters.
“It was almost eerie,” Barbara Pierce Bush says of the writing process, “because we actually wrote in silos, and would share what we had written with each other, and sometimes we would have written almost the exact same paragraphs because we have such shared memories.”
Extremely close as girls, they say, they remained thick as thieves even while attending separate colleges, Jenna at the University of Texas at Austin and Barbara at Yale University. You might recall that both were slapped with alcohol citations in 2001, when the then-19-year-olds were at a Tex-Mex restaurant in Austin (this is referenced in the book, by the way).
Since then, they’ve gone in vastly different directions both professionally and personally – Jenna is a correspondent on NBC’s “Today” show, an editor-at-large for Southern Living magazine, and a wife and mother of two young girls, while Barbara is the CEO/co-founder of Global Health Corps and is single without kids.
But they remain incredibly close, they say – and still have their twin moments.
“When my water broke when I had my first baby (daughter Mila, in April 2013), I was with a big group of people at my baby shower,” Jenna Hager Bush says, “but I really only wanted to be with Barbara. And I think it was evolutionary. If you read about animals in the wild giving birth, they only are alone, or with their closest kin. I think it’s more the emotional connection that we have than it is being able to read each other’s minds, or anything like that.”
Perhaps the greatest testament to their bond? They’ve lived one neighborhood apart in Lower Manhattan for several years, and in 2016, Barbara moved into a place just four blocks away from Jenna’s.
“Figuring out housing in any city is never so easy,” Barbara says, “but it was a real wonderful surprise that we were able to live so close to each other, and especially now that Jenna has two daughters, I get to see them very often.”
“We both travel so much for work,” Jenna says, “that if we lived on different sides of the city, I don’t know if we would see each other as much. But because we’re so close, there’s no excuse.”
And the “Sisters First” book tour has been a great excuse for them to spend even more quality time together.
“It’s been like the road trip that we’ve never taken together before,” Barbara says.
“Well, I mean, we’ve definitely been on a road trip together before,” Jenna says, “but never a two-week road trip. Although I have done one of those with my husband, and believe me, you get tired of each other.”
Both laugh, then Barbara jumps in again to say something that, at this point, should come as no surprise: “But Jenna and I haven’t gotten tired of each other.”
‘Sisters First Tour’
Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush will present “an evening of personal stories and universal revelations during this celebration of sisterhood and all of the complicated, messy, hilarious, life-defining moments that accompany it.” The conversation will be moderated by Laura Vinroot Poole, founder of Charlotte clothing boutique Capitol.
When: 8 p.m. Friday.
Where: McGlohon Theater at Spirit Square, 345 N. College St.
Tickets: $40-$65, or $95 for VIP meet-and-greet tickets. All ticket levels include an autographed copy of “Sisters First.”
Details: 704-413-7654; www.blumenthalarts.org.