Deb: Dear Granny,
My heart was pounding as Colin and I stood in line to be presented to the Queen. I wore a hat, Granny, as I knew you would have disowned me otherwise. I also wore hose as protocol dictates, although it was very hot. It was a beautiful garden party at Rideau Hall, Granny, filled with lovely and excited women wearing a candy store of hats, and military persons adorned proudly with their medals, sparkling in the afternoon sun. White tents were bursting with canapés and cocktails and, although you were always a tea-teetotaler, I know you will forgive me, Granny, for the glass of wine I had to calm my jittery nerves.
As I watched the Queen approach, I thought of you. I thought of how much you and Grampa admired her, and I reflected on the reasons why. You were proud of the way she stepped into her position, with barely a moment to mourn her beloved father, caught between her role as Princess and Queen. You admired her sense of honour and commitment, her bravery, and her singular sense of duty to “the family business”, even when it caused her pain and humiliation over the years.
I thought of her love of animals and realized that she loves her horses and dogs partly because they never disappoint. And I wasn’t disappointed either, Granny. She was lovely in her blue hat and coat and little white gloves. And she was tiny, like you and I!
My curtsy was perfect, but I don’t know how I managed to accompany it with a bold “Your Majesty” as I was bereft of saliva. But I did. And she smiled as our Rideau Hall guide told her that I was a long-time supporter of her and the royal family. “How lovely,” she said and waited for my response. Forgive me, Granny, as it wasn’t what Churchill might have called “my finest hour”. I am never at a loss for words, as you well know, but all I could manage through dry sticky lips and a tongue feeling as thick as my head was, “Yes, Ma’am ... I love it ... you.”
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I wouldn’t have been disappointed if she had locked me in the tower right then and there. But she smiled, chatted up Colin, and moved on. Just as the feeling was coming back into my hands and feet, his Royal Highness Prince Philip started to joke and charm us. He made us feel like old friends, as is his particular gift. And I was relaxed (sort of) because he wasn’t the Queen.
Are you kidding me, Granny? The Queen!
And it was not to be left at that, as we were again presented to her in Toronto at a private reception followed by a lovely luncheon. And this time I redeemed myself. Oh yes, Granny, I pulled out all the stops, determined to fix my previous gaffe in Ottawa. I curtsied a perfect curtsy as I uttered “Your Majesty” and then I said ... NOTHING. Just smiled. Let Colin do the talking! What a concept. No words. Just smiled. It was bliss. As she turned to leave I said, “An honour to meet you, Ma’am!” And as she started to leave I thought of you smiling down at me saying, “Good, lassie”.
Barbara: Oh, Deb. This speaks volumes for your personal history and family story: the Queen has always been a very important icon for you and yours and you have done your whole family proud (as well as making the rest of us smile).
You should all know that the version of this story that I got was the acted-out one, rife with Deb’s nerves, dismay, and jitters. As you can imagine, she had me rolling in the aisles. But “hearing” it told to her Granny, who would have been so delighted and excited, is so completely endearing that it just makes me love you all the more, Deb.
Let me just add that meeting the Queen was a lifelong wish for Deb and that the visit to Toronto that Deb was invited to actually coincided with Deb’s birthday. I think we can safely say that this was the best, most memorable gift Deb has ever received!