Friday, April 29, 2011

A Sorta Fairy Tale

Tori Amos' song title is appropriate today as we watched a prince marry his princess...er...duchess, the title she was given by the Queen. It was sorta a fairy tale due to the pomp and circumstance, the regalia, the carriage ride, and the prince/husband. But in some ways it was the same story as my own son and his bride...just a couple of kids who met in school, went separate ways a few times, came back together, said "I will" and "I do" and hope to live happily ever after.

There have been some who have challenged those of us who were mildly interested (or wildly fascinated) at the nuptials today. I get it. As an educator, I have been thrust into the current war zone along with my colleagues. These are times that I feel the need to justify to the world that I am a professional, that my work is important (so important that it can't be evaluated by looking at student numbers that are gathered on one day, reflecting one test.) So that's stressful and important and distracting enough without getting up at oh-dark-thirty to watch television. In addition, as a resident of the Southeast, I have spent a good part of the past two weeks peering out windows, dreading the all too familiar funnel cloud that has been common around here.

In other words, I know there are more important issues than a wedding involving strangers across the ocean. But lest you haters want to judge, indulge me a moment, and let me tell you why I watched and why I felt compelled to provide a play-by-play social media commentary during the event.

First of all, I have a degree in English. I love England, having studied the history of the country as required by my major. Also, I spent the better part of my last two years of undergraduate studies reading dead poets and playwrights who unknowingly impacted my learning, and then my teaching, for almost forty years. When the Reverend Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, quoted Chaucer during the ceremony, he sent me straight to translations of The Canterbury Tales and my senior English class with Mrs. Gertrude Chewning in a trailer at Northern High School then to an entire semester devoted to "Geoffrey" all by himself my junior year in college. Later during the ceremony the choir sang "Jerusalem" based on lyrics by one of the Romantic Writers, William Blake. At that moment I was transported to sitting in Greenlaw Hall at UNC-Chapel Hill reading Tyger, tyger, burning bright..." Fittingly, both of these literary heroes of mine are buried at the wedding venue, Westminster Abbey, along with Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, Tennyson, Dickens, and Austen in a section appropriately named "Poet's Corner." If I ever have a chance to see it, I will surely weep.


Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey - if only those tombs could talk....

So, yes, the English major in me wanted to see the wedding. But the middle-aged woman in me wanted to see it, too. I was there, nose pressed to the television in 1981, rocking a four-month-old and watching the timid Lady Diana marry her prince. A year later, little Wills was born, and I watched him continue to grow through the years just like my own little princess. And I, like so many others, looked on as the marriage struggled, saw the divorce play out in the tabloids, and watched in horror as Diana lost her life and was laid to rest after two little boys followed her casket through the streets of London. Like it or not, this family is a piece of our culture, and for that reason I wanted to watch the next chapter.

For some of us, the royal family is an intriguing history lesson. I tweeted earlier this week that if our country's forefathers could see all the media coverage of this event, they may wonder why they fought so hard for independence. But what a unique social studies lesson for our students: here's where we started, here's what happened next, and here's where we are now. Then we could ask: How about when they sang "God Save the Queen" and it sounded just like "My Country 'Tis of Thee" that we all learned in first grade? Why is that? And why wasn't the Queen herself singing, but her husband was? Cool classroom conversations...

What about the rich discussions we can have in our classrooms about just exactly who among us hails from England? Many of our students originated in other places; let's talk about everyone's heritage while we're on the subject...

Speaking of heritage, my father told me his family came to America from Wales, another reason I found the event today so interesting. My mother's family has traced my ancestors back to Leicester, England. Those of us with ties to the United Kingdom may just enjoy comparing cultures. For example, I have a problem with the fact that if I ever meet Kate Middleton, and I want to display proper etiquette, I will have to curtsy to a 29-year-old and refer to her as "ma'am."

Please. I have sweaters in my closet older than she is. And in general, I was put off by the formality of the wedding. It was too quiet inside the abbey. When the couple was announced as husband and wife, there should have been a few cheers, at least a clap or two. I hate when weddings sound like funerals.

And when the bride and groom exited, I longed for Kate to simply grab Will by the arm; that dainty handholding halfway up in the air looked a little as if they may break into a waltz at any moment.

Which leads me to the last reason for watching the Royal Wedding: the sheer entertainment of it. I mean, seriously, Eugenie and Beatrice, you call yourselves princesses? I call that stuff on your heads target practice! I feel bad for whoever sat behind you.

Here's the thing: in these days of devastation and tragedy, these days of feeling that there is a fight brewing inside us ready to be unleashed at every turn, we need to take a break and celebrate love and beauty, and, well, magic. Life will be back to smack us in the face soon enough.

Sometimes we just need a sorta fairy tale.

My son, Prince Will, and his Princess Rebecca last August. No formalities during this wedding recessional....right down to the Converse sneakers.

4 comments:

Megan said...

Beautifully stated.

Megan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Beth said...

I agree with you 100%. My sister and I are convinced that we were born in the wrong country (surely we must really be British). I have a difficult time understanding those who might like all things Disney, for example, but then don't understand the magic and wonder of a real royal wedding! Nice blog, Cindy!

W. Andrew Corbin said...

Amen! It is absolutely OK to celebrate what is good and wholesome. I grow tired of cynicism and "opinion news". Just for a moment the world was able to see a celebration of love and joy.