I landed in the UK the day before William and Kate showed the world the very best of what it means to be a Royal (not to mention “young and in love”). Being an incurable romantic, I was engrossed from the minute I spotted the first silly hat to the last of the tacky outfits, running commentary with my gracious hosts, Mr. and Mrs. H, in Yorkshire. Could have done with a more tango-inspired kiss on the balcony, but all things considered (what with the Queen, the Step-mum and the Uncle who’s a bit sketchy), well… Well done! Nothing like a little blue blood spectacular to pump up the £ (pound).
But as we mature folk well know, good marriages are rare. So as I watched all the pomp and circumstance, I couldn’t help but wonder if that gorgeous dress Kate wore will look as hideous years from now as Diana’s does in hindsight — or if Kate (who I find adorable, appropriate, lovely and perfect for William -- as if I know, ha ha) will adjust to the change that’s about to happen in her life as smoothly as she managed her nuptials. As we witnessed in the scandalous unraveling of Diana and Fergie, it’s not easy being Royal. Kate’s not quite the rags-to-riches story as her hubby’s mum, but still, there’s a lot of silver polishing and tub scrubbing to manage when you “I do” to the man who will be King.
Speaking of which (bathrooms) and not that it means anything more to them than a giggle, but the farm belonging to my hosts, has 12 of them. And 4 kitchens. And 8 bedrooms. And way too many of their neighbor’s Mary’s little you-know-whats roaming about the front yard (which extends about as far as the eye can see) bahh-bahhing with good reason: this is meat-eating territory and they’re doomed.
Mr. and Mrs. H are living amongst the farmers in the “location location” where Gladiators was filmed and the county where the characters in “Calendar Girls” live (Mrs. H is the current President of the WI). We watched The Royal Wedding on a wide-screen TV in one of their many cozy rooms, virtual guests of Queen Elizabeth, sipping champagne in honor of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge… Followed by omelets made from home hatched eggs and local cheeses — and a stroll through the Dale (avoiding a zillion droppings from said Mary’s little you-know-whats, surprisingly unperturbed by our intrusion), up and over slim hinged gates in stone fences, two miles to the closest Village Square where a pot luck party was in progress, celebrating the newlyweds. Locals: good common folk, justifiably proud of their Royals that day and gloating over a marriage that’s off to a jolly good start.
And that was one of many lovely impressions I was left with after spending a few days with Mr. & Mrs. H — whom I met a couple of decades ago when I was doing business in London and he was kind enough to buy what I was selling. Some couples have what it takes to make it through the long hall, and being around them was (sigh) “lovely.”
They were childhood sweethearts who never strayed. With two adult children and five grandkids they adore, she’d been a working mom but is content now feeding the chickens, the cats and the Mr… He went from Sales Director to business owner to sitting on a number of important Boards — but he doesn’t have a clue what’s where in which kitchen…With the best of intentions, he volunteers to go fetch whatever the Mrs. asks for — and she winks, predicting the exact timing of his empty handed return, smilingly scolding him with a gently comical tone. He calls her “darling,” she calls him “sweetheart” and I’ve known them long enough to know that even when they only had two bathrooms and one kitchen, they were kind, thoughtful and “there” for each other. It would never occur to them to be otherwise.
It was a wonderful day to be in the UK; regardless of your time zone, the global community was tuned in, smiling, and feeling the love Sir Elton sings so beautifully about.
So maybe that’s why, when Mr. and Mrs. H came into the kitchen the next morning and happily declared “Bin Laden is dead,” it took a really long minute for my brain to shift from the visual of a good-looking couple motoring off in a royal convertible – to our President telling the world that The #1 Most Wanted Man on Earth was killed by Special Ops. Ding Dong the Witch is dead.
I stood, dazed, as the little TV screen in their eat-in kitchen switched from flag waving and festivals, to the concerned faces of our commanders and chiefs focused on their screen –and old tapes of the World Trade Centers going down. There were “on the scene” reports from Ground Zero (two blocks from my home), and interviews with people whose lives were changed forever on that horrific morning, as they gathered again, hoping for closure.
We were now attending a global funeral, Bin Laden’s body buried at sea; his remains as irretrievable as those innocent people he targeted ten years ago. The media went to work and we were transported back into the ‘fear’ zone, put on high alert with warnings of widespread retaliation. The Royal honeymoon was cancelled — and there were no shouts of victory at Ground Zero…Just pained silence.
I pushed back from the hype, hoping for an “expert opinion” that might offer that with the Wicked Witch dead, his army of flying monkeys might rejoice, be freed and cross over to our side…But coming as it did, on the heels of the best of Royal weddings, the contrast between their reality and ours seemed way too vast — and scary.
And then a friend shared with me the speech her son wrote to his bride on their wedding day. Oddly enough, it seemed applicable to both of these momentous events …
“…There is no other miracle than this:
That two threads (each distinct, sharing no fiber)
From sources disparate and paths disjoint
Entwine, and thus find permanence and strength;
That by their choice of shape and touch alone
They knot themselves; that keeping boundaries firm
They yet cohere: two threads becoming one,
From this creation flows
No thunderous shaking of earth or sky,
No word Devine or quickening of a womb
Does more than this: A new thing here is born,
And you, the privileged midwives, live its birth.”
A wedding and a funeral; and the contrast between selfless joy and profound sorrow were the shots heard around the world. What happens next?
Two ideologies, two very different events…Two threads. One, emanating from (the Middle East and) an older man who certainly had enormous influence — and the other, from (the West and) a young man who someday will…An opportunity perhaps, for peace? Too soon to know but regardless, a new thing here is born.
NOTE TO SELF: Let there be cake. Please.