PORTLAND, Maine — Former First Lady Barbara Bush visited a children’s hospital in Portland on Thursday and entertained a group of young patients with a book reading and visit from her daughter’s well-mannered dog.
Tess, a Maltese-poodle mix, nearly stole the show.
The 88-year-old stops by the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center each year, when she and former President George H.W. Bush return to their vacation home in Kennebunkport. She was accompanied this trip by her daughter-in-law, Margaret Molster Bush.
The 33-room children’s hospital, named after Barbara Bush in 1995, provides services ranging from basic checkups to medical and surgical treatment of life-threatening illnesses and injuries.
After reading aloud “The Best Mouse Cookie,” a book about a mouse who bakes a batch of cookies in his tiny house in a tree trunk, Bush spoke with the children.
“How old are you?” she asked little Avery Garrison of Scarborough. “Three? My favorite age.”
Known for her quick wit, Bush added wryly, “I’ll show you I’m a politician.”
She turned to a teenaged girl sitting with her parents. “How old are you?” she said to Raushan Bailey of Windham. “Fifteen. That’s one of my favorite ages.”
Garrison later shyly approached Bush, fascinated by the former first lady’s jewelry. The little girl reached out to touch a green beaded bracelet, which Bush explained she wore as a tribute to the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Bush took off the bracelet and gave it to Garrison as a gift.
Bailey, a patient at the hospital for just a week after an unexplained fainting spell, admired the decorated cane Bush sometimes uses when she walks.
“She looks young to be a first lady,” Bailey said with a smile.
Bush, who served as first lady of the United States from 1989 to 1993, told the children she enjoyed her time in the role.
“Four very happy years. Am I sad I’m not there now? No,” she said with a laugh.
Bush also met with 68-year-old Barbara Wyllie, a resident of the Waldoboro Green assisted- living home who has long wanted to meet the former first lady. Wyllie, who has donated numerous handmade items to the children’s hospital, arranged to meet Bush through “Live Your Dreams,” a program sponsored by the Maine Health Care Association dedicated to improving quality of life in Maine’s nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.