Teri Orr: ‘… when the rainbow is enuf’
Haunted. That is the one word I keep settling on when I try to describe how I was feeling after watching Oprah’s interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry this week. Yes, I have watched some of “The Crown” —COVID made us all watch stuff we might not have if we were fully living our lives this past year. Honestly, I found it just too British and dull to finish. Diana’s years were the only time The Family/The Firm/The Institution held any relative interest for me.
Sure, I have been at Buckingham Palace — twice. Like all tourists who go to London. In the great excavation of many closets of my home in this last year, I found a box of very, very old photos. There is a photo of me at 17 in a smart navy trench coat with my short faux Twiggy hair covered by a scarf on the damp day. I am standing outside the Palace next to a very tall man made taller by his ridiculous-looking hat. Like he fell off a Beefeater gin bottle. More recently, in 2019, I was there with three dear friends and saw the most amazing exhibit in a small museum at the Palace that featured original drawings by Leonardo da Vinci. After hours of being transcended to another time and mind — as Banksy might say — we were funneled to “exit thru the gift shoppe.” I think I still have a wooden spoon with a Palace logo on it.
I am of an age that I woke up early with my (then) husband and we watched all the hours of the wedding of Diana and Charles. All good fairy tales have come (and ended) televised in my lifetime. I was on a business trip years later in Seattle — coincidentally with a bunch of Brits — when it was announced Diana had been killed. We had a proper wake. Which is to say we watched it all endlessly on television in someone’s suite and drank bitter drinks. All that light and energy and magic extinguished — as Sir Elton sang — suddenly gone — like a candle in the wind.
In the ensuing years it was hard not to follow Diana’s sons and root for them. It appeared the boys were estranged from their father by choice and raised in boarding schools and beloved by their grandmother, the Queen. We watched them stumble. A lot. Constant media attention recorded all the tripping. William finally settled down with a commoner who once had been part of bawdy charity lingerie fashion show when they were all college mates. I try to think of those PG-13 photos when I see Kate now all buttoned up and proper with those giant hats that look like they might take flight at any moment.
Harry seemed to have a much rougher go of it all. His time in the military was powerful and helped form the good man he has become. He publicly talked about his own mental health issues, and he made it his mission to help others who struggled and William and Kate were right in there with him on international television. And then he fell in love with an American actress from a B-grade television show. (It was — I watched the entire series of “Suits” — pre-COVID). She was living in Canada. It was mostly neutral ground. Meghan seemed sweet and had a prior (marriage) and it didn’t feel like there was anywhere really for the relationship to go. More like a palette cleanser for them both. And then the relationship became something real. The wedding made the Anglican choral group into a gospel choir and This Little Light reverberated with a powerful rhythm on those antiquated chapel walls at Windsor Castle. The bride was stunning. The groom was glowing. Later, the couple took a tour to South Africa and you saw Meghan dance with the local women and you felt shadows of Diana’s successful tours all those years ago. There was joy. And then a baby boy. And just like the way so many fairy tales continue — no one saw the mental health issues were growing intolerable.
I was shocked by some of the revelations and saddened by all of them during the Oprah interview. This beautiful woman and her prince were made to feel ashamed of her skin color and all the threads around it. She had contemplated suicide. It terrified Harry. There were shadows of Diana. By the end of the interview you felt these two were getting the help they needed. They have a baby girl on the way to join her big brother. There were even chickens in their yard. There is something grounding about those chickens.
And while watching, some whisper, out of some part of my old hippie brain, remembered bits of the title of a poem/then Broadway play/eventually film. “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf.” And while I was fascinated by the work that had its start as a dramatic reading — one poem and dance at a time — in beat bars in San Francisco in the ’70s, I didn’t fully appreciate the nuance and the pain and that the rainbow was about more than a prism of color in the sky — the reflections, and refraction of water droplets. Rainbows always appear opposite of the sun. The arc of a life maybe? I just knew it was not mine to wear as an accessory — like some brightly patterned head scarf. As a twenty something white girl I wasn’t in touch with all my DNA. But eventually pain recognizes pain. “For Colored Girls” was written for women of all colors, by Ntozake Shange, who never changed the title to black girls — though she was asked to several times because we come in all colors … she would say.
Something to consider when the rainbow is elusive on a Sunday anywhere, even Kensington Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the founder of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts. She has been a member of the TED community since 2007 and founded TEDxParkCity in 2009.
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