In London, when Queen Elizabeth is in residence, a flag is flown to indicate her presence. On a recent trip, our driver, Grant, was explaining this fact to my grandchildren as we approached Buckingham Palace . “Ah yes”, he said. “The Queen is home!”
“Will she come out to see us?”, Harry John inquired. “No, I don’t think so.” Grant responded, “She is very busy.” Madeline interjected with the absolute certainty with which she speaks, “Oh but she will join Gram and me for tea on Monday, right Gram?” “But of course!” I said faking a British accent.
My son gave me that look that said “…and just how are you going to pull that off, mom?” But I ignored him hoping I would figure something out. Seriously, why wouldn’t the Queen want to join Madeline and me at The Claridges? Surely she would like to meet this adorable four-year old child. I didn’t know how, but this was going to work out just fine!
Monday came and Madeline was all excited about having tea with the Queen and Gram, “just the girls.” All my life I wished to have tea at The Claridges and here I was with Madeline. We were seated at a table with three chairs and I knew instantly this was a good sign. A waiter came to remove the empty chair, and Madeline bailed him out of big trouble for surely the Queen would not be happy about having to stand!
“Oh no, that chair is for the Queen!” she noted. ” I am sorry.” said the waiter, “The Queen called to say she is unable to attend, but wait, I think she sent someone else in her place. Would that be okay?” Just then another waiter appeared with a large teddy bear dressed like the door man and placed him carefully on a pillow on “the Queen’s chair.”
Madeline was thrilled with the bear, her cucumber sandwiches, and the little scones and pastries. She drank her peppermint tea with her pinky held high because, after all, she had seen that on “Max and Ruby”. I gather Max and Ruby are the authorities on all things British. When tea was over, Madeline thanked the bear for joining us, and told the waiter that Grant would drive the bear back to the Queen. The clever waiter who seemed to read my mind replied, “The Queen wondered if you would keep the bear and take him back to New York with you.” Madeline was beside herself and asked if perhaps the Queen remembered that she had a twin brother who would also like a bear dressed like the doorman.
And while the tea and the bears cost almost as much as my airfare to London, Madeline will forever remember having tea at The Claridges with Gram and Bear, the Queen’s friend. And me? I will forever be grateful to someone I did not know, who “read the tea leaves” quickly, and created one of the most special moments of my life.
This was an interesting turn of events as usually I am suggesting that we women take charge and make things happen. This story reflects one of the few times in my life when I just let things play out. I didn’t make up any stories of why the Queen wasn’t joining us. I didn’t plan the arrival of the guest bear. I just let life play itself out. Hmmmm, I wonder if there is a huge message here for me!