Wednesday, September 09, 2015

That Time I Saw Queen Elizabeth II

It was July 7, 1976.  I was 10.

My mother's older sister, Kay, and her family (husband Bill and son Jeff, who is my age) were visiting from California which, in those days, only happened once every 4 years.  And perhaps since it was also the Bicentennial, my grandmother chartered a tour bus to take everyone in the family to Washington, DC for the day.  My mom took my three siblings and me.  My dad had to work and couldn't (or probably wouldn't) take the day off.  I remember my mom telling me on the bus ride home that she missed him.  He was the only person, out of a busload of relatives, who did not go.

Anyway, I remember it being a really great day.  I recall driving into DC by way of the George Washington Parkway and seeing The Washington Monument suddenly appear in the distance through the trees.  It was magnificent.  Perhaps I told my 10-year old self, "I'm going to live here one day".  Or perhaps not.  In any event, I was struck by the city.

We visited all the sites: The Capitol, the Washington Monument, The White House, and The Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials.  But it was an experience that lasted just a few moments that I will remember my whole life.  Our bus was sitting outside the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue.  Back then, Penn Ave was a thru-street, not closed off as it is today.  Our bus driver came on the loudspeaker and told us all to go to the left side of the bus, that there was "something coming you will definitely want to see."

I was sitting in the front seats with my Aunt Mary Lou and looked out the window.  Immediately, a parade of cars lined up in front of the White House gates.  The car that stopped beside our bus was a black car with a glass roof.  And inside, looking up at our bus, sat Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.  They sat for a few seconds as the White House gates opened.  She was wearing a light blue hat and matching coat/dress.  She smiled slightly, and I thought she was beautiful!  I fell in love instantly.

Then just as suddenly, she was gone - driven into the White House grounds to meet President and Mrs. Ford.  It was one of the most memorable experiences of my childhood, a memory that has stayed with me for almost 40 years.  I'll never forget her face and the awe I felt when we made eye contact for just a split second.

Today, I send my congratulations to The Queen on the day she becomes the longest reigning monarch in United Kingdom history.  Sixty-three years and 7 months, surpassing her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria's reign; a record which generations no doubt believed would last forever.

I hope Her Majesty continues in good health for many years to come.