Only Fresh Posies for the Queen
May 28, 2005, The Edmonton Journal
The night before the final royal walkabout in Edmonton, I called a neighbor to ask if I could pick some of her forget-me-nots to make a bouquet for my daughter, in case we were lucky enough to catch the Queen’s attention at Churchill Square.
“For the Queen? No way,” she said. “Those flowers will wilt as soon as you cut them. You’ve got to buy real flowers.”
This was a problem, and not just because I’m cheap. It was 9:47 p.m. The closest grocery store closes at 10. I made it just before the doors locked. Given the number of flowers that Edmontonians had been presenting to the Queen, I shouldn’t have been surprised that the floral department was decimated, but it was still disconcerting to discover that the expensive bouquets were half dead and the nicest ones were made of silk.
Eventually I settled on some beautiful white lilies. They seemed appropriately regal. In fact, I was sure I’d seen them at a royal event. I picked them up and studied them. Then it hit me: white lilies were what had covered Princess Diana’s coffin.
This would not do. Not at all. Maybe pink? The Queen had worn pink on her visit. It was doubtful she’d wear the same outfit again, but obviously she liked the color. I grabbed a pink bouquet and hurried to the cash register, where I ran into my neighbor, Steve.
Steve has an uncanny ability to make me feel foolish even when I’m doing something intelligent, so when he surveyed my purchase and said, “You always come out at 10 p.m. to buy flowers? Are you going to stick them into your garden?” I smiled and changed the subject.
I shouldn’t have felt silly, though, because my desire to see the Queen wasn’t entirely frivolous. I was scheduled to take the oath of citizenship Thursday, and as my friend Sandi says, it’s always a good idea to get a close look at the person to whom you’re pledging your loyalty.
Actually, I’d been hoping the Queen would come to the ceremony. After all, she was going to be in town that week. Couldn’t she stay one more day so her newest citizens could swear their allegiance to her instead of her portrait? Apparently not. I swallowed my resentment and decided that if she wasn’t coming to my party, I’d go to hers.
Also, my daughter, Elizabeth, wanted a chance to see her namesake in person. So did her friend Laura, and Laura’s mom. Armed with individually wrapped pink lilies, the four of us headed downtown early in the morning and staked out a spot against a barricade on the northeast corner of Churchill Square.
When the Royals arrived after two hours, Prince Philip came straight to our corner and stopped in front of me. I was dumbstruck, so instead of acknowledging him, I waved to Lynn Mandel, the Mayor’s wife. She greeted me with a big smile. The Prince smiled down at my Elizabeth.
“Lift her over the barricades,” he said.
My arms had turned to jelly. I couldn’t lift my daughter. A guard reached over and hoisted her into the VIP area. Then the Prince smiled at Laura and said, “Lift her over the barricades, too.”
The Elizabeths and Laura exchanged friendly words. I, meanwhile, was tongue-tied. I should have said something pleasant to Prince Philip — perhaps “Thank you!” or “Welcome to Edmonton!” or “Tomorrow I become your wife’s loyal subject!” but it was as if a trap door had opened in my head and my brain had fallen out. I had lost the ability to say anything coherent.
By the end of the day, I was still struggling to make sense of it all, but of this much I was sure: I’d gotten my glimpse of Her Majesty, and even though she’s only one part of the rich fabric that is Canada, I was ready to pledge my oath to her.