I don’t remember the year but it was the first visit of the Queen to the United States. Everyone was talking about it and my mother, Irene Klass, the Women’s Editor of a newspaper, received an invitation to meet Queen Elizabeth. This was not a private meeting, and I believe it was to be with other women in important positions. In those years, the very late fifties, it wasn’t so common for women to hold high positions.
For weeks we were going through Mom’s closet to see what she should wear. What does one wear when they are going to meet a real live Queen? I picked out my favorite blouse of hers and she considered it. Hindy was a lot younger but she also got into the act. In fact, she asked if she could go along, and to prove her abilities she curtsied. My father suggested that maybe she wanted to buy a new dress. That was generous of him as money was not so readily available. Mom said that she would wear something she already owned. My mother was a very classy lady and in the end she picked out the perfect outfit, fit for a queen.
Mom understood that she would probably not get a chance to say very much to the Queen so she was busy writing the few words she wanted to convey. In fact, she spent more time on this than her outfit.
Finally, the big day arrived and I came down with a very high fever and aches all over. I was not a little girl but I begged her not to leave me alone. What about Queen Elizabeth? “ I know,” I said, “but I feel so horrible. Please stay home.” She gave me aspirin but it only brought the fever down a little bit. I’m not proud to say that I started to cry and again begged her to stay with me.
And so Irene Klass sent her regrets, and stayed home with her feverish daughter. Afterwards when I recovered I cried my tearful apology for making her miss this once in a lifetime event. Mom was quiet for a minute and then she said that nothing in the world was as important to her as the welfare of her husband and her two children and that she would never regret her decision.
I was watching all the tributes to the grandmotherly Queen Elizabeth, two months ago, and I picture her meeting my mom and telling her, “You did right all those years ago. You had your priorities in the correct place.” And my mother will smile, and whisper to me – Naomi, I got to meet the Queen after all. And I will whisper back, but you, my beloved mother, Irene Klass, were really the true Queen all along.