Seeing the Queen
“Let the little girl stand in front of me so she can see the Queen,” the elderly Scottish woman said to my mother as we edged our way towards the front of the crowd outside Buckingham Palace. My mentor had camped out all night so she could have a good view of the Trooping the Colors procession which marks the yearly celebration of the Queen‘s birthday.
I was nine years old and so interested in English History that I had memorized the names in order of succession of the monarchs from William the Conqueror in 1066 to Queen Elizabeth II whose coronation ceremony had taken place in 1953, four years before our family sabbatical to London. By squinting at magazines so closely that my nose touched the pages, I had seen pictures of the Queen in her military attire which she would wear for this event. Also, I had been given a lead figurine which portrayed her on horseback just as I would be seeing her.
My attention was caught by the sounds of marching steps just a few feet away from me. I heard the Queen’s Guards play The British Grenadiers and thrilled by the music, I stood a little higher on tiptoe to see the soldiers passing in front of me in their iconic red coats. At that distance and since there were so many men marching in front of me, I could see a blur of red against the gray of the pavement and the gray of the sky and of the crowd which to me was also a smudge of gray.
Finally the little Scotswoman said “There. There she is.” My mother standing behind me tried to point out the regal figure to me, but in the time it took to focus my one usable eye, the Queen had ridden by, leaving me an image of a blur of brown and one quick flash of red.
Yet, almost sixty years later, I knew I had seen the Queen. My memory had fused the photographs I had studied, with the indistinct blur of the actual experience which had given me a vital and visual memory to be treasured. The image of a royal figure sitting sidesaddle was also reinforced by the tactile input of my fingers touching a little lead figurine.
For more vignettes on a low vision view of London, read my autobiography Making Friends with Other Trees and Flowers – a Story of Low Vision and High Expectations.