In 1952, a magazine arrived at our house showing three women on the cover, all wearing black, their outfits complete with black veils.
"Who are these?" I asked.
"Those are three queens," Mom told me.
"Why are they dressed like that?"
"Because King George has died and they are dressed that way to show how sad they are. This is his widow, Queen Elizabeth, over here. And in the middle is his mother, Queen Mary. And over here is Princess Elizabeth, King George's daughter. Well, since her father died, she's the new Queen Elizabeth."
"Her father died!" That was hard for a four-year-old to take in, even though I was nearly five. She must be incomprehensibly sad. And she was so young, and so pretty. And she was the new Queen. My little heart broke.
When the family was finished with the magazine, I cut off the front cover and hid the picture under the mattress of my doll's pram. I would take it out every once in a while and look at it, sometimes kiss it, and put it back in its hiding place.
I can't recall what eventually became of that magazine cover, but the feeling I had then has never left me. And from that day, it has always been my dream some day to meet Queen Elizabeth. She came here, right here to Richmond, Virginia, a few years ago, and I would have given up almost anything to go see her. But Dad had just been put in a nursing home and was confused and lonely and I felt I had to be there with him. So he and Mom and I watched news coverage of the event on the nursing home's dining room television while we ate supper.
In my dreams I've met her rather often. Once I dreamed Demetrios and I were having breakfast in our little flat in London (No, we don't have one in real life!) when the doorbell rang it it was two men delivering a new table. It was the most beautiful table, shiny brass, round, with a blue marble top. I was surprised; I had not ordered a table. "What's this all about?" I asked Demetrios.
"Oh, I bought it especially for the occasion because the Queen is coming for luncheon."
"The Queen? Coming here? You mean the Queen is coming to have lunch with us today and you're only telling me now?"
"Relax," he said, with a smile. "It's being catered. You don't have to do a single thing except look pretty."
Well, I woke up before the actual luncheon, but in another dream, Queen Elizabeth came to visit our whole family at the beach cottage. And she enjoyed her Saturday with us so much that she invited us to come to church with her the next day, and we did.
Last night I was at one of the royal garden parties, and I finally met the Queen. This time I was sure it was real, not a dream. And what did I do when I thought my dream had at last come true? Acted like a star-struck teenager. I was so ashamed I went slinking off to some dim room.
A few moments later, the Queen appeared in the room, with a small entourage, all the people with her behaving very decorously, with proper reserve. I didn't even look up. I wanted to make myself small.
Then the Queen sat down, looked around, and sighed. "I rather miss being around any queenophiles," she said. ("Queenophile" was presumably something like russophile or anglophile.)
I said, "But you are around a queenophile. I'm definitely a queenophile!" If it was flattery she wanted, she'd come to the right place, except that mine was sincere admiration.
She obviously relished it, and so began a lively conversation we both enjoyed. I even ended up telling her about the magazine cover and the doll buggy, everything. We had such a good time that for once waking up wasn't even such a great disappointment.
Recently I saw a television program about one of the Queen's garden parties. It mentioned that people can fill out applications for invitations. I think I'll try to do that.