Featured Story

Jenifer’s Journal: Three days in September

The universe consists not only of ‘unity in variety,’ but of variety in unity. — Umberto Eco

The problem with only writing two columns a month is weeks like last week. Aside from the myriad of column ideas I already have clanging around in my noggin, last Thursday morning I suddenly was presented with a great new one.

By the afternoon, however, news of Queen Elizabeth’s death was being broadcast worldwide and then, by Saturday, I finally realized that September 11 was on Sunday.

So, I guess I’m just going to have to try to get three great topics — a motley crew of ‘em — into this one little bitty column.

1. “Wear coats.” In the early 80s, that was the famous rejoinder delivered to a table-full of tourists at the Ram’s Head Inn by the redoubtable then-master-waiter Townsend Montant III when he was presented with, for at least the 50th time, that favorite summer season query, “What do you people do in the winter?” 

It seems that, then as now, some tourists find our customs and rituals … downright exotic. And maybe there’s a reason.

Sept. 6, Tumbleweed Tuesday, was the day after Labor Day, the “New Year” in many resort communities. By Thursday, the high tide of tourists having subsided, I met up with Peter Waldner, cartoonist-artist-film maker extraordinaire at the home of Leah Friedman, artist-writer-actress extraordinaire, to film the opening shots of a Waldner original film which involves a 70-something “kid” trying to persuade her feisty, 90-something mother to sell her house and move to a “senior community.” 

Within an hour, in the spirit of cinema verite, Waldner had brilliantly woven into the scene the expected arrival of the real-life refrigerator repairman (a handsome, good-humored young man named Steve of whom P.C. Richards should be proud), the unexpected visit of friend and secretary Jean Lawless, and a sudden cameo by Myra, the sweet and infinitely patient housekeeper — and all this on a September Thursday morning.

And that’s just a sampling of the fascinating and varied vocations and avocations being practiced by the denizens, senior and otherwise, of this “nice, tight little Island,” and it’s not even officially autumn yet. Aside from wearing coats, who knows what we’ll all be up to in the winter! 

2. I’m one of those who, in the past several years, has been awakened to her part in the racial realities of our country.

Growing up, I had always been enamored by the pageantry and personalities that infuse the history of England, for instance, but now, as I examine it and the many other cultural threads woven throughout the tapestry of my life, I see how the lives and histories of people of color are all but absent.

When I learned of the death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II on Sept. 8, I was faced with my personal English enigma — how to reconcile feelings of deep love and sadness for the woman who had, after all, spent over 70 years as the living embodiment of the white privilege that has held dominion over the questionable progress of Western civilization for the past two millennia? 

Then I recalled the tribute given in memory of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Chief Justice Roberts, who said of her that she possessed “… the unaffected grace of precision.” 

Somehow the Queen possessed that same kind of grace. As a woman, she was warm and loving with her family, her friends, her horses, her dogs.

As a queen, she was unswerving in her duty and wholly dedicated, in every detail, to the welfare of what is left of the British Commonwealth. She belonged to her subjects — of every color and continent. 

And with that same grace, at 96, she managed to graciously welcome England’s newest prime minister, Ms. Truss, just two days before breathing her last at her beloved Balmoral Castle in Scotland. She wasn’t the best of England or the white race, whatever that is. She was an example of the best of our species. Everybody’s queen.

3. It wasn’t on my agenda last Sunday, but still I found myself slumped in front of the television for the lion’s share of the 21st memorial name-reading of the 9/11 victims.

I was mesmerized by the variety and aural texture of the names, and I was struck by the care that must’ve been given to choosing each one of them some 25, 40, 60 years ago by the proud parents of each baby who would become a victim of the unspeakable and literally unimaginable horror of that beautiful, early September morning in 2001. 

I think perhaps we’re all living for them now or should be. It could’ve been us.

It could’ve been ours — and, in many ways, it was.