Saturday, May 26, 2012

Queen for a Day

There was a TV show in the US when I was a child (long ago!) called Queen for a Day. It was an early version of reality game shows. Various women would come on the show and tell their sad tales of woe, including what they wanted most, often something like a washing machine or medical help for a sick child. After the stories were told, the audience would clap for their favorite, and one woman would be chosen as the queen based on the level of applause. She was crowned and draped in regal robes, and seated on a throne. Her wishes were granted, and other prizes were awarded.

Although the show, like many of its ilk, was embarrassing and humiliating, the concept was alluring. Here were women often overlooked as they went through their lives of challenge and sacrifice. One of them would be singled out as special and celebrated.

I was witness to such an event in my own life that made a lasting impression. I had an aunt who was special to me, Aunt Bernice (pronounced with the accent on the first syllable – Bur’ness). My mother was the youngest in a large family from the Ozark Mountains in Missouri, and Aunt Bernice took the place of the grandmother who had died before I was born. She gave “down home” all the deep soul meaning the expression has always had for me. Handmade quilts, cut short beans cooking on the stove, the gold spray painted bust of JFK on the wall, the plastic praying hands on a doily on the lamp table. Her speech was full of extra A’s, as in “I’m a-gonna cook up some more cut short beans.”

Aunt Bernice was no one famous or powerful. She spent her days tending to her family. I adored her.

My friend Tom and I took her out to lunch one day. Tom is famous and powerful. A graduate of Harvard Law School, an influential lawyer, a man used to being listened to. But on that day you would not have known it. He treated Aunt Bernice like she was queen for a day. He held her chair, made sure her food was to her liking, asked her about her family, listened attentively to the stories of her childhood, stories I grew up with.

Like this one. As a young girl, Aunt Bernice liked to go down to the creek. One day, she heard someone coming, and hid in the bushes. Along came a boy she knew riding on a mule. He spied her in the bushes and called out to her. She was too embarrassed to reply, so she picked up a rock and threw it at him, striking the mule which then bolted up the creek. She ended up marrying that boy.

Oh, she told it so much better than that. As Tom listened, Aunt Bernice grinned with pleasure, the deep lines in her face crinkling up like brittle paper. And I grinned with pleasure, too, watching her enjoy herself, grateful to my friend for his gallantry and kindness. The way he treated my aunt made a much bigger impression on me than all his elite degrees and prestigious positions. When I commented later on his graciousness, he said that his father taught him that all people deserve our attention and respect, that we should make everyone comfortable in our presence. Wise dad, that one.

Aunt Bernice died just before her 100th birthday, leaving a legacy of children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren. I have many treasured memories of her, but that lunch stands out to me. She was queen for a day that day, as she was in my heart every day.

Is there someone in your life who deserves to be queen or king for a day?

related post: Who are Your People?

53 comments:

  1. Such a delightful story! And what a class act, your friend Tom.

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    1. Linda, Yes, he is a class act, through and through. I should write a whole post about him one of these days! Thanks for your comment.

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  2. I remember "Queen For a Day." What simple times those were compared with all the so-called reality shows now on television. And what a kind, good man your friend is. That's a valuable lesson to recall and practice. I'm going to be more aware of my opportunities.

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    1. Teresa, True, the show was simple by today's standards, but still the basic premise has not changed. Sadly, there have always been people willing to put their private lives on TV and TV people willing to exploit them. But yes, Tom is a kind, good man, and he has been an inspiration and a model for me. Thanks for your comment.

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  3. How sweet! I can think of lots of people who deserve to be "queen" (or "king") for a day. I've experienced this wonderful feeling when friends visited and were extra-loving to the people I cared about. It fills my heart so! This is a good time to think of all our "unsung heroes"! Thanks for the lovely post, Galen. Hugs to you!

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    1. Vidya, You are right. There are many people in our lives who deserve to be celebrated. And it does fill our hearts to have other people recognize the people who are special to us. As the mother of special needs kids, it has often happened that someone has endeared themselves to me by being kind to my children. Thanks for your comment.

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  4. We try to make my mom Queen for a Day everyday but this July we are all meeting in Laughlin for a BIG 82nd birthday bash for her...for five days! Should be great fun...she deserves it..she has nine kids! Would love to read more about Tom..

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    1. Great plan--she will love it! Nine kids--wow. My mom was the youngest of eight. And yes, I should write more about Tom sometime. He is a class act. Thanks for your comment.

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  5. This is a lovely story Galen Pearl, she deserved this special day for sure.
    And Tom is definitely an Inspiration for us all! We should all learn from his actions and words.
    Have a lovely Sunday!

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    1. Marie, I've known Tom for twenty years and while that day stands out for me, I have seen him treat people like this many times. He is an inspiration indeed. Thanks for your comment.

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  6. Dear Galen,
    What a splendid story! Your aunt sounds a lot like my Aunt Joanna. I nominate her for "queen for a day."

    My Aunt Joanna was like a mother to me. She was the one I went to with my problems and the one I confided in. She didn't judge me and was never too busy to listen or help me with me with some good advice. I still speak to her every day and sing, "Happy Birthday," to her every year. Once in a while I smell cigarette smoke and know that is her way of saying she is still around.

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    1. Angela, Your Aunt Joanna and my Aunt Bernice are probably great friends. They sound very much alike. Thanks for your comment.

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  7. Well, I certainly wasn't planning on sweet happy tears this morning! It sure does seem that you had not only Queen for the day but King for the day as well. It is the precious simple bits and pieces holding us together, like his wise father's words, that make this short lifetime so much stronger! Beautiful post, and one that will last in my heart as well!

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    1. Karen, I agree, he was king that day in my eyes. His father taught him well. Thanks for your kind words.

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  8. Thanks for sharing. Drove behind the Queen a few weeks ago. Still waiting patiently for my Queen

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    1. I hope you find her. There should be someone in all our lives who deserves to be celebrated. Thanks for your comment.

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  9. Galen, I'm in love with your beautiful Aunt Bernice! You wove such a touching story here; she would be so proud of you. :)

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    1. Martha, You would have loved her--everybody did! And yes, she was always proud of me and loved me, no matter what. Thanks for your comment.

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  10. What a beautiful memory of your friend and your aunt. Those are the best stories of all.

    I married the only girl as nerdy as me in North America. At 47 she really was still a girl, never married before and so into her career writing news, she didn't know any slang spoken by people who weren't on TV. But she had the purest, untainted, unjaded attitude of compassion I had ever encountered. Of course I was a goner the day I met her. She's not the queen of every day, only about half of them. The other half she has made me the king.

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    1. Mikey, I'm sure this comment brought smiles to all who read it! How perfect that y'all share the royal treatment. Thanks for commenting.

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  11. I would love to make my grandmother queen for the day. She's been very sick and is in the hospital. She doesn't have a lot of time left but she has always devoted herself fully to her family. To have her be treated like a queen, that would be a beautiful thing..she would certainly deserve it.

    I like the premise for the show..but you're right , it can be a bit humiliating for the participant..as all their woes are aired to the world. Though, I think everyone is so used to their own woes that most people can understand and just be touched at someone who is struggling, whether financially or with their health, having a day where they don't have to worry, a day where all their cares are swept away.

    Great post. :)

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    1. Jessica, Perhaps there is still time to let your grandmother know that she is a queen in your heart. Blessings to you and your family as you go through this time with her together. Thank you for commenting.

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  12. Galen,
    About 26 years ago I introduced my grandmother (also Bernice) to a friend when she came to visit me in Miami. They could not have been more different. He, a CPA with a Philadelphia accent and she, the proprietor of a southern diner and a Florida Cracker fish camp. At times I had to "translate" their conversation, but they got along famously and became fast friends that weekend. He treated her with the utmost courtesy and graciousness. I was undeniably impressed.
    That meeting was what "sealed the deal" regarding my opinion of the character of my new friend - now my husband of 24 years.
    His motto has always been - "watch their feet" meaning of course, that actions speak louder than words.
    Thanks for this sweet reminder to treat some deserving and possibly neglected person in our lives as Queen for the Day!

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    1. Wow, what a similar story, even the same name! Well, except for the marriage part. But it certainly sealed the deal for me in terms of friendship. "Watch their feet" is great advice. I'm going to remember that. Thanks for your comment.

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  13. That was a terrific show, and today's reality shows pale in comparison. It actually had a good, positive theme, instead of cussing people out or honoring 16 year olds for getting pregnant.

    Do you remember the show, The Millionaire? That's what I would do with my billions.

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    1. JJ, I never watched The Millionaire, but I think it was about someone anonymously giving people money--is that right? I recently dreamed that I won millions of dollars and in the dream I was planning how I was going to give it away. It was so much fun. I was sorry to realize it wasn't true when I woke up! Thanks for your comment.

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  14. Aunt Bernice sounds like an amazing woman, she reminds me of my Nana whom has also passed on. I'm glad Tom was able to take time out of his busy schedule for this lovely lady...I bet a good time was had by all. My Mom is my "Queen For A Day" and I do special things for her all the time but to be treated like royalty would be the greatest thing ever. Enjoyable post!!

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    1. David, Yes, we all had a delightful time. I'm sure your mom appreciates all the special things you do for her. Thanks for commenting.

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  15. Came via Vidyasury's blog
    This post is special and touching. Loved it to the hilt.
    So much to learn ,and ponder, and live.
    Thanks.

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    1. Welcome! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I hope you will visit again.

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  16. Hi, Galen! ~

    I realized when reading this that we might be kin folk since my people also come from the Ozarks in MO and many still live there.

    I love your Aunt Bernice -- she sounds amazing!

    One thing I'm wondering about is why you say of your friend: "The way he treated my aunt made a much bigger impression on me than all his elite degrees and prestigious positions." If that made a bigger impression then why do you even bring up all his degrees, repeatedly?

    I try to treat everyone I come into contact with like a god or a goddess, I also expect them to act like one ;-)

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    1. Cousin Linda! Who are your people? Why don't you email me and we'll figure out how many degrees of separation we have.

      About your question, I brought up Tom's status to highlight that it doesn't matter how influential or important people think you are. The real measure of character is how you treat people. I agree with you--everyone should act like that.

      Thanks for your comment.

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    2. Cousin Galen (hehe!) --

      I am not in touch with my family of origin. My grandmother, whose maiden name is Boone, told me stories long ago about growing up in the Ozarks. She also told me we are directly descended from Daniel Boone and most of our family never left the area.

      Your question has piqued my interest and now I think I may look into this...Thank you ;-)

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    3. I'm not related to Daniel Boone as far as I know, but I'm told there was a train robber in the family! Let me know what you find out. If any of your people came from Ava, then maybe we really are cousins!

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  17. My parents were married for 63 years and rarely apart. After my mom died about 18 months ago there was fear in the family that my dad would quickly follow her. We had no faith in his ability to be separated from her and survive.

    He has surprised us all by not missing a beat, though he misses her tremendously. The highlight of his week is when my wife and I visit him for lunch. He will often tell us the same stories of how they met, down to the smallest details. His eyes come alive and his body straightens up as he remembers their first date, or how he convinced his future wife to leave her then boyfriend behind.

    His love and devotion to mom, even a year and a half after her passing makes him a King in our eyes.

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    1. Bob, That is so sweet. I know those are stories you treasure. Thanks for commenting.

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  18. Beautiful thought provoking post - I love these types of posts that make me think. Wouldn't it be wonderful to make everyone feel special - there is a saying that states, it's not the person you remember sometimes it's how you made them feel. My goal is to treat everyone like your friend Tom treated your Aunt Bernice. Special, loving and no judgement for we never know where they have walked in life.

    In love and light my friend Galen,
    Nancy

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    1. Nancy, I've heard that saying, too. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we were all treated like Tom treated Aunt Bernice, and if we treated everyone else that way, too? Thanks for your comment.

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  19. Very beautiful post!!!
    I can't think of someone's now to be queen of the day for me, maybe because I would chose absolutely everyone I am in contact with lately. You have all made my life so different. Thank you <3

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    1. Nikky, What a lovely thing to say. Thanks for your comment.

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    2. Steve in Los AngelesMay 28, 2012 at 10:47 PM

      That was a very beautiful post! Thank you.

      Although he no longer is with us, I definitely can say that my Dad was King of the day for many days, especially during the last four years of his life. Almost every Saturday and Sunday morning, I would pick up my Dad at the assisted living house where he lived. We would go out to eat, visit our relatives and his friends, and do anything else he wanted to do. I gave my Dad my undivided attention those two days almost every week. I am grateful for every single one of those days that my Dad and I spent together. I know that the attention I gave him extended his life. My Dad passed away over 9 1/2 years ago and everyday I think about him and my Mom, who passed away over 12 years ago. I did as much for my Mom as I could do so, but she was quite ill for about nine years before she passed away.

      I have kept in my memory all of the wonderful things about my parents. I also practice the things that I learned from them. My Mom and Dad were my ultimate teachers.

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    3. Steve, What a wonderful tribute to your Dad, and Mom, too. The best evidence of their "royalty" is your devotion and the time you spent to show it. Thank you for your comment.

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    4. Steve in Los AngelesMay 31, 2012 at 12:44 AM

      Thank you for posting my comment.

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  20. I remember that show! They'd robe her, crown her, and hand her an armful of roses. Your post was sweet, bringing back memories of my mom and her crusty wisdom.
    Thank you for that!

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    1. Leah, Crusty wisdom--I like that phrase. So glad this post brought you some good memories. Thanks for commenting.

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  21. I love this story! In one sense, it's so simple to make other people happy and giving them attention is also a simple way to do this. I've been thinking of people growing old and how often they are put out of sight and, thus, out of mind and out of attention. How sad this is!

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    1. Sandra, So true. One thing I appreciate about my church is the effort made to stay in touch with people who are no longer able to attend. There is a table in the hall after the service where anyone can write a little note to homebound members, and of course the pastors and deacons make regular in person visits. Thanks for your comment.

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  22. What a lovely post. I really was warmed by your story. I remember The Queen For A Day program. My grandmother loved watching it. This brought back some sweet memories of her.I loved the thoughts on how kind your friend was to your aunt. I have a husband just like that.
    Blessings and hugs to you!

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    1. LeAnn, So glad you have some sweet memories...and a husband who knows how to treat you like the queen you are! Thanks for commenting.

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  23. aw... love this, Galen... everyone should have an Aunt Bernice...

    I remember that show. It began on radio - I remember my Mother listening to it faithfully!

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    1. Carolyn, Yes, everyone should! Radio--that was a long time ago! Thanks for your comment.

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  24. That is such a sweet story. I wish there were more gentlemen around like that. I hope you have a great week.

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    1. Bonnie, Yes, we should clone him! Thanks for commenting.

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