Just inside the front door of my childhood home is a large built-in bookcase my father made when my parents bought their first house. On the nearby coast, my mother found a beautiful piece of driftwood to fill its center space, making the uniquely shaped object the focal point in our living room. Anything of value—car keys, lunch money, outgoing mail, and the like—found the way to its safe keeping. “Put it on the driftwood.” We all knew what that meant—Don’t lose this!
Along with my dad’s treasured books, other items of significance adorned the shelves, keeping their importance front of mind. A portfolio with my aunt and uncle’s wedding picture sat center on the bookcase. Married in England, they stood for the photographer in front of a beautiful chapel where they exchanged vows. Lively and handsome, my mother’s brother was always my favorite uncle, but my aunt…she was the Queen of England to me. The only thing lacking was a tiara. She was the most beautiful lady I had ever seen, and her regal image became engraved in my memory, where it remains to this day.
I eventually realized her true identity was quite removed from what I once believed, but her regality remained very real. She was poised, patient, and pretty. Her laughter was from the heart, and her eyes took her smile beyond the curve of her mouth. When she spoke, her lovely British accent left kindness suspended in the air, where it lingered for me to replay over and over again.
Four thousand miles away from her new home in America and deep in the Tower of London, the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom sat protected by the Tower Guard. Among the 23,000-plus gemstones, the collection includes scepters, orbs, and crowns dating back to the 12th century.
I have always been fascinated by British history, most likely because of my love for my aunt.
Thinking about the Crown Jewels causes me to wonder how their worth is determined. The rarity of the precious metals and gems and their royal history bring their value beyond anything we can imagine. But, what are they worth? These items could be physically replicated, but their history cannot, bringing their worth to the level of priceless.
There, in her home, I watched my aunt gracefully manage meals, care for her children, and graciously make her guests feel welcome. She guided our character, gently encouraged us, and validated feelings of those around her. She was, and still is, my “Queen of England.” When I was a child, she represented everything beautiful and good, and now as I reflect, I clearly see why.
As a mother, aunt, and grandmother myself, I now wonder, “Am I a queen to anyone? What do others see in me?” Like my cherished aunt, I want to leave a legacy of great worth. Her Crown Jewels were kindness, respect, encouragement, and patience. Her diamonds were faith, love, and joy. Her worth…immeasurable.
Wendy Lipham lives on the Alabama Gulf Coast where she has taught interview and communication skills for over twenty years. Having heard God’s call to work with young women who have experienced sexual violence and abuse, she is further inspired by the growth of her “Beautifully Broken” story group. She enjoys writing, drawing, and needlepoint. Most of all, she loves living life beside her husband and hearing the laughter of their seven grandchildren.
“Am I a queen to anyone? What do others see in me?” Lovely questions to ponder for today! Your words have provoked a desire in my heart for the legacy I’ll leave behind. Quite honestly “The Queen” has never crossed my mind. Yet just maybe I’ll be a Queen for today and carry on in the goodness of your words😉
I love your story about your aunt and its prompt to consider our own legacy. Thank you, Wendy. 💗
Wonderful story Wendy. As always it made me think of family. You are to your children and children’s children everything you mentioned about a legacy. You create flashbacks of our youth growing up together which always puts a smile on my face. Thank you for sharing.
Love your story. I, too, have a “foreign” aunt who was one of my most favorites. You could easily have been writing about her. I always told my uncle he married up! I, too, write so my grandjoys will smile and think fondly of me when I’m gone. I want them to know “stuff” that was important to me, know they matter and are better than they think, know I love and value them unconditionally, know I believe in them and their journey, plus this and more gathered from a few words on paper or a screen.
I enjoyed reading your story and traveling back down my memory lane this morning.