The Queens’ Tea was announced in April, to be held on May 1 at the Senior Center in Magdalena, New Mexico, the dry little town where my mother lives; nominations would be taken then for Queen of Magdalena’s Old Timers’ Reunion, in July. But only for women of a certain age. How certain? Over 60. “You could be queen,” I told my mother.
In Magdalena, if you were to close your eyes and picture a queen, what would you see? I would see someone remarkably like Queen Elizabeth, but alighting from a stagecoach, not a Bentley, wearing turquoise and silver instead of pearls, a leather quirt, not a silver-handled crop in her equipage. In Spain what I picture is more complicated. Jockeying for position in my vision of la reina are Sofía, former queen, tall and trim with a puckish face, wife of one king and mother of another, now grandmother of the heir presumptive to the Spanish crown, and gracile Letizia, present queen, the mother of two pretty blond girls. Her creamy, angular face is frequently on the cover of the gossip magazine ¡Hola! She trumps her mother-in-law in beauty, but her mother-in-law beats her in breeding, or so implied another gossip magazine that I once flipped through while waiting to have my hair cut. Maybe the princesses will exhibit dutifulness and forbearance inherited from their grandmother and chutzpah and spark from their mother. It’s a failure to not know your place, but it’s a sad thing to know it only to retreat there. What’s exemplary is to know the place and occupy it with regal pride, not to suffer it but fill it, like a gown that shows you at your best, whatever your size, and that you in turn dignify.
In Magdalena, the queen’s gown this year was apple green, and on her head she wore not a boater or stovepipe hat such as favored by Elizabeth, but a bonnet that matched her dress. In the parade she rode in a wagon, accompanied by several queens of yesteryear. She waved to the people on the street, and they waved back. The old gals do not vie, I’m certain, but share. “You this year, me next,” is one way it could go. I don’t know, but maybe who sits on the float is not the crucial matter anyway. Perhaps the tea was really the high point. It was, after all, the Queens’ tea, a tea for a plurality, I noticed. Perhaps for all the queens—for Queen-to-Be, and all the Queens Wannabe and Still-Could-Be, and, like my mother, Queens Not-to-Be.
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