Their attraction was "kind of chemical," she says. "We almost immediately found a sort of a comfort in each other that we have to this day — which is not so much sitting in the same room talking but just being together." She dismisses as ridiculous the portrait by critics of her husband as feckless or not intellectual.
After 9/11 and during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that sense of comfort sustained them both, she says.
As they prepared to move out of the White House, she worried about whether it would be hard to adjust to life back in Dallas. "I wondered what it would be like, especially for George, who had every problem in the world on his desk one day and the next day his desk was totally clean."
Once there, though, the transition was easy — a relief, really.
"I didn't really know how anxious I always was when I was there until I wasn't any more, until we got home," she says. "Those first few nights at home I would lie in bed and think, 'Now, what do I have to do tomorrow?' And it was a great relief to think I really didn't have to do anything the next day. ...
"I could at last exhale."
IN HER OWN WORDS
On Her husband's Drinking:
Before he stopped drinking, "George drank the three B's: a bourbon before dinner, a beer with dinner, and then B&B, a sweet after-dinner drink. It was lethal, and it was completely accepted because that, or some version of that, was the drinking life of most men."
On Mother-in-law Barbara Bush:
"From the start, she was also ferociously tart-tongued. ... She's even managed to insult nearly all of my friends with one or another perfectly timed acerbic comment. ...(But over time) Bar and I came to know and love each other."
On Hillary Clinton's Private Advice:
"Hillary led me out on the parapet off the third floor, where each spring they set out pots of tomato plants, because 'you just can't get good tomatoes.' I nodded my head and smiled and thought, 'Tomatoes? You can't get good tomatoes at the White House?' But George and I also grew pots of tomatoes on the parapet."
On Visits by Foreign Dignitaries:
"When Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, came to visit us, they requested glasses of ice before we began a long receiving line. ... (T)he prince removed a flask from his pocket and added to each a small splash of what I presume was straight gin, so that they might be fortified before the hour or more of shaking hands."
On the Iraq War:
"Every day George read the casualty reports. ... It was heartbreaking. One night at dinner he was particularly silent. Barbara and Jenna were there, teasing him, trying to get him to laugh. Eventually he just got up and excused himself. I told them then that a packed military helicopter had been shot down that morning over a field outside Baghdad."