In 1992 a terrible fire destroyed some of the most historic portions of Windsor Castle, including St. George’s Hall and Brunswick Tower; the same year saw the disintegration of three royal marriages. The question of how the restoration would be funded spawned still more questions about the funding and relevance of the English monarchy in general. No surprise that Elizabeth chose “annus horribilis” to describe 1992 in her BBC Christmas address; it was a fitting moniker indeed. I recall a moment of sympathy, if fleeting, for Elizabeth on the part of a reporter at the time, who took it on himself to try to find a common thread between the Queen and her subjects: a bad year is a bad year, whether you’re a prince or a pauper. And it’s just plain wrong to kick somebody when they’re down, even if it’s the Queen. This photograph of Elizabeth, made in 1992, speaks volumes about that year in her life.
I am a generally optimistic person who frowns on whiners; my default response to whining is something along the lines of, Oh, just knock it off, you great big crybaby. But black clouds have a way of lingering, and I have been worn down just a tad by one that stalled over my tiny corner of the world last spring and shows no signs of moving on. I am keeping it together, for now, in the hopes that I can at least fake my way through it.
Last weekend I found myself trying to make peace, in a hurry, with an immediate family crisis and the chapter that will now follow. When you know something bad might happen to a family member, you get ready with the big guns, just in case. But then you hope like hell you’ll never have to use them. We—my husband, my teenager, and myself—are now loading the big guns, and preparing to engage. We have had practice, to be sure; many drills, and a few false alarms. But as my dear friend stated so eloquently to me just a few days ago, Everything you have done as parents until now, you have done to prepare yourselves for this moment. That thought had never occurred to me, ever, but when she spoke it, I knew it was the truth.
So now we will engage in a battle to save a life, to restore peace to a family, and to lay the groundwork for a happy future. And I for one will believe that Mr. Shakespeare knew what he was talking about when he said Every cloud engenders not a storm. To my beautiful boy: many people, a few institutions, and even a church, have failed you. Your parents may have also failed you at times, but I assure you that was not our intention. Your dad and I love you more than life itself, and our decision to be without you for a while is borne of that love—it is unconditional, unstoppable. There are no guarantees, but we have a damned big gun, and we won’t go down without a fight.
I can’t say why Elizabeth came to mind when I was preparing this post. Do I consider myself royalty? People who know me well have heard my mantra before: I am pretty sure I was switched at birth and am really a princess. I do think it is significant, though, that I remembered an English reporter and his moment of compassion for Elizabeth, because I identified with her as a human being. I enjoy teaching ballet, and especially those magic moments of clarity during which a child really figures out something I’ve been trying to explain, sometimes for weeks. I am occasionally sorrowful that I have had so few of those moments with my own child. I now must entrust him to some other teachers who will, I hope, see that same clarity in him, and send him back home to us, a boy restored. Peace to you, my love, and less cloudy days ahead.