My mother-in-law keeps a tiara on her bedroom dresser, not an expensive one but it is invaluable to her. She was chosen Winter Queen at a senior citizen Christmas banquet a few years ago. It not only surprised her but pleased her as well.
Ask about that magical night and she will go on and on about how she and my father-in-law attended the banquet so he could accept an award for Senior Citizen Volunteer of the Year, and she stole the stage by unexpectedly winning the “beauty pageant.”
I cannot blame her. I had a similar honor bestowed on me back when I was in the 8th grade.
Catholics celebrate the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus, throughout the month of May, and on May 1st, our K-8th Catholic school would choose one 8th grade girl to crown the tall statue of Mary that sat in the courtyard between the school and the convent of nuns who were our teachers. On the Sunday closest to the 1st of May, we would proceed from the church after Mass, parade around the parking lot and the school grounds, praying the rosary. The young girl would lead the procession right behind the priest and the altar boys. She would carry a crown of flowers to place on the Virgin Mother’s head while everyone stood around and watched.
The girl was chosen by popular vote. Her 8th grade classmates would nominate several girls and the kids would raise their hands and vote for their choice while the nominees stood out in the hallway awaiting the results.
There were five names and I was one of them. Being nominated was a surprise and an honor in itself. The most popular girl got nominated first, and all the boys in the room swooned in unison. I was third in the mix, among several really sweet friends, the kind of girls who treated everyone with smiles and kindness. When they called us back into the room, the teacher announced I had won by an almost unanimous vote. I was stunned. Why me?
My socks never stayed hiked up and my hair never stayed combed down. I weighed 80 lbs and most of it was the unibrow I had grown the summer before. I was the caterpillar before it becomes the butterfly, the ugly duckling before it morphs into a swan. If they wanted a virgin to crown the Virgin, I was it. I had the look of one destined to stay a virgin for a very long time.
On the fateful day, I lead the procession, climbed onto the tall ladder, and placed a crown of roses on Mary’s statue – all without stumbling, scraping my knees, or flashing my underwear to the boys standing underneath. (But just in case, I remember wearing my better pair of unmentionables.)
It’s been years. No one remembers that day except for me. It was long before cell phones so there are no pictures or mementos of that day, but I know just how proud my mother-in-law must feel about being crowned the Winter Queen.
I too will remember forever the day I beat out all the other girls in the 8th grade - the day I was chosen Queen of the May.