Instead I pulled out a delicate blue tissue airletter that my grandmother's Aunt Fannie sent to her in 1953, that I've kept among my stamp collection since I was a child for the regal red coronation logo. To try to grasp the span of life that Queen Elizabeth's reign encompassed, when she was coronated, in June, 1953, my father was a 20-year-old radio operator aboard a ship visiting Britain. Now he is a 90-year-old man in a nursing home, er, dynamic senior lifestyle community.
"I am getting more and more excited at the thought of seeing your son," Fannie Ross, of 133 Spencer Place, Leeds, wrote to my grandmother Frances, whom she called Esther, her Hebrew name, before sharing news of the coronation, which took place a year after Elizabeth had become queen:
"I enjoyed the coronation very much. I stayed all day at my friends house to watch the television + everything went without a hitch — the streets in Leeds were deserted. I think almost everyone must have been looking or listening in."
So nothing much really changed in 70 years — most people camped in front of the television, watching a ceremony for royalty. You can decide if that is comforting or disturbing.
World War II was only eight years in the past, and the subject of shortages is next.
"You ask me what you can send me with your son when he comes — we can get most things, but we don't get best salmon or tins of fruit salad so those things would be welcome if it is convenient."
My father used to tell a story of that visit — that his great Aunt Fannie produced a small bottle of milk, with cream on the top, having heard of his affection for it, and watched him avidly until he drank it all.
I think I will resist the urge to add to the bad journalism hobby-horsing on the queen's passing. I noticed several articles referring to the "uncertain future" that Britain and her commonwealth now face after her death, as if those nations without a departed queen have our destiny pretty well preordained. We all have an uncertain future, all the time. Yes, sometimes it seems otherwise, and we feel we have a clear understanding of what will transpire, forgetting that, almost inevitably, we don't.
The only thing worse than that is all this thumb-twiddling over why people are so curious about the passing of a fabulously wealthy royal who had reigned if not ruled over nearly a third of the world's population for their entire lives. What could the interest possibly be?
Driving back from Michigan's Upper Peninsula yesterday, my brother and I listened to the Beatles "Abbey Road" album and, as always, I was surprised by the little 23-second ditty at the end, "Her Majesty.""Her Majesty is a pretty nice girl," Paul McCartney sings. "But she doesn't have a lot to say."
That sums it up nicely, doesn't it?