Teri Orr: Heavy is the head the crown. . . rests on | ParkRecord.com
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Teri Orr: Heavy is the head the crown. . . rests on

Teri Orr
  

Park Record columnist Teri Orr.

I wish I had some sweet or even saucy story about …that time I met the Queen, but alas, I do not.

The closest I get is a faded photo I found this summer in my great move after 42 years in one house. It was tucked in a box I had not opened since I packed it up in February of 1979 and moved here from California.

It included photos from a trip I took at age 16 to Europe. It was the standard trip of “see 12 countries in 14 days” or something like that.



We saw the classic ruins and still-standing castles and great museums and ate fabulous Italian food. At a beach, I wore what was a rather American prudish two-piece I discovered, hardly a bikini by comparison.

Like so many who are young and travel to England, I wanted to see The Palace and The Queen and The Changing of The Guard. It was the mid-60s, and the British invasion had started in music and art and all things wild- much wilder than we yet were in the states.



So when I came across the photo of that very, very young (and so very immature in hindsight) 16-year-old, I stopped. The girl in the navy blue Burberry trench coat with a silk kerchief in a triangle on her head tied under her chin, is mostly a stranger now. I looked terrified of the Buckingham Palace guard. I don’t remember being terrified at all, but I do remember feeling a kind of awe.

I also knew I would never show the photo to my mother. She thought all things British were phony. Un-American. Her depth of disdain for those things she didn’t understand or had never experienced was endless. I had arranged to attend the high school trip without her assistance. She happily signed the consent form to have me gone for two weeks of her summer.

I digress.

The last time I was at Buckingham Palace was entirely different. It was in the summer of 2019. With no clue that only months away, the entire world would be in a lockdown never before seen.

My travel buddies – two gay men from Palm Springs and a woman from the Bay Area who works with a lot of fabulous emerging and established talent, were all headed to the TED conference in Scotland that summer.

They had suggested we tag on some pre-game days to the trip, see some plays and eat some yummy food in London. Rick had found an exhibit we should see of Da Vinci’s original sketches and letters and drawings at a gallery inside Buckingham Palace.

We arrived early and spent hours there—just hours. And when we set out to wander down the street and find a place for a treat, the heavens opened up, and it poured warm summer rain.

We arrived giggling, sopping wet, and went inside the bar in the boys’ hotel. It was the gayest of gay places. Velvets and tassels and silks and stripes and plaids and all the things. All the things. “Da-da, dat, dat, da-ya”…I hummed from the King’s song from Hamilton.

And when the rain lifted, we proceeded to walk -as if- as if we were aged Sloane Rangers checking out the tiny shops and food purveyors. I loved that they knew London well and shared it with me. It was an entirely different way to see it; to see the Palace as an adult this time. It was grand.

My mother had been gone almost half a dozen years at that point- long enough- I no longer heard her disgust at my joy of being in the shadow of The Queen. (And yes, we had been told she was in residence at Balmoral, but, still…somehow- her essence was there for us/ for me.)


When I saw the news blast, the Queen was in a serious way this Thursday morning, I stopped- just as I have all my years for shootings and assassinations and attempted overthrows of the government in this country. I watched on the television in real-time as the family raced to her beloved summer home – her happy place all her long life- Balmoral. A private country residence not owned by the monarchy but by the person. By her.

It seemed so fitting if she were passing, she would be there. And then I watched as the news officially came- she was gone. She and my mother were about the same age. And I was born the year she became Queen. I had never made that connection until today.


All the British invasion stuff with the Beatles and Twiggy and fashions and pomp was thrilling to me while growing up. It was a silly time.

Listening and watching Anderson Cooper covering this story and his giggling like a girl at some of the funny stories about the Queen, was just delicious.


What happens now? To the memory of a woman who came into power when Winston Churchill was prime minister? The amount of history and mystery of the monarchy she lived and created when she took the crown at just 25 years old?

I mean, really, no offense to any of you who might be there now, but …does anyone know anything about the planet and their place on it when they are 25 years old? Let alone how to run all the countries under the umbrella of the United Kingdom.

Was her obvious disdain for the messy marriage of Charles and Diana something I bristled at? Sure.

And when Diana died, I wanted her to drop the royal façade. But she did what she thought best for her son and her grandsons and her country.

And at the end of that year, with other family divorces and troubles made public, she had the grace and the cheekiness to call the year annus horribilis -an expression I have borrowed on more than one occasion.

Her political savvy, level-headedness and love of Corgis and family and country will be parsed in the days ahead. She was smart and kind and loved the outdoors and (most of) her family.

She served her country all of her adult life. We have Presidents for two terms at the most- eight years- and that seems plenty with most every single president.

To imagine 70 years of governance is more than even the most ambitious American official would ever wish on themselves. Let alone on a national stage, which, of course, is also an international one.

In the days and weeks and months and even years ahead, we will watch the origami of the unfolding and refolding of this latest edition of the British form of government and see if all the pomp under the circumstances is endurable.

Personally, I hope the costumed/uniform guards get to stay at the Palace. And may the Commonwealth now address how best to adapt to the crises in so many of the countries under their rule.

God bless (the essence) of The Queen. And all sing a hardy chorus of…God Save The King. All the days, even this very Sunday in this emancipated -across the pond -Park…


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