Midland, Texas is a flat, dry, hot, sandy, and windy place full of tumbleweeds, oil rigs and Friday night lights. It is where my Dad, Bill Wood, grew up. I think there is a Midland parenting philosophy; have love and respect for your children, parents, neighbors and elders. The small West Texas town were my Dad grew up was and still is a place to raise and nurture children so they grow up with unwavering confidence and courage.
George W. Bush once said, “To understand Laura and me, you must understand Midland. All that we are, all the things we believe in, come from that one place.”
Reading Laura’s book, Spoken from the Heart, I kept thinking about my parents and grandparents; the similarities of that West Texas life. Both my Mom’s and Dad’s fathers were in the oil business. Laura writes about her dad always having his left arm twice as dark as the right arm from driving with the window rolled down to job sites. My Mom has said countless times how Papa’s arm was like that.
I had the honor and privilege of meeting President and Mrs. Bush at my parents’ house last night. I mentioned to Laura that I am a second grade teacher and how proud I am to be a teacher like my grandmother, Margaret Wood. She taught English to both Laura and George in Midland. I knew Laura had been a fourth grade teacher and I read how she adored her second grade teacher. She and George had also mentioned to my Dad at the Midland reunion at the White House that my grandmother was one of the greatest educators they had ever had. This makes me extremely proud!
My daughter wanted to know about the party, I told her it was like Santa was coming to Coco and Coach’s house. Well, Santa came and some friends from the Midland class of ’64 turned into little holiday kids again when they saw Jolly Ol’ Saint George!
In May of 2000, an article was written in the New York Times after President Bush was first elected. My Dad was mentioned in three paragraphs:
Still, former classmates say that if they had been told that one of their number would become a presidential candidate, they would not have thought of George Bush. Instead, they say, the assumption would have been that it would be Bill Wood.
Mr. Wood, as bright and ambitious as he was athletic, beat out George Bush on the football field and was the first-string quarterback on the seventh-grade team (Mr. Bush was the second-string quarterback). Mr. Wood eventually became the junior high school and high school student council president and even headed the statewide association of student councils. If any young man in Midland seemed destined for the White House, classmates remember, it was he.
“Since then, the only thing I ever ran for,” said Mr. Wood, now a lawyer and a bit flattered and amused by the memories of his classmates, “was the school board.”
The most exciting moment for my Mom was when she and my Dad were outside waiting to greet President and Laura Bush. Mom said, “As I watched outside in front of the house the caravan of cars pulling into our driveway I had never been so excited in my life! Looking out at our backyard now, I can’t believe the President and Laura Bush were at my house.”
My husband Derek and I noticed how President Bush talked with us so naturally. He connected with everyone with ease and happiness.
President George Bush is in great shape! He bikes regularly. My husband Derek (who shares that interest) heard, “Hey son-in-law!” Knowing who was calling him Derek walked over and had the best conversation about mountain bike riding. What was even more amazing is that the President showed an interest in coming up to Denton County and trying the mountain bike trails. He asked Derek what time he liked to go, how far he rides, and directions to get to Isle du Bois. At the end of the evening, President Bush called out saying, “Derek, do you hammer?” Derek replied yeah and got a thumbs up sign from the President.
George W. Bush once said, “I will always be grateful for the unconditional love of my parents. There is no doubt that that unconditional love gave me the, I guess you would say “courage,” to run for president of the United States. And to my mother and my father, I can’t tell you how much I love you.”
Growing up, my brother, sister and I have felt that Midland parenting philosophy all our lives. I still feel it now and I hope I can emulate that love and inspiration of courage for my two children. Mom and Dad, I can’t tell you how much I love you!
Photos: Ashley’s Dad, Bill Wood (number 10), Midland’s first-string quarterback. Midland reunion picture of the Bush and Wood family.