a life well lived

Monday, July 21, 2014

Paddington Abroad 07/21/00

A little book popped up in my top bureau "treasure" drawer, a very short story handwritten and bound by Mim to honor a special day and time. 

It took me back to July 4th week, 1976, when the three of us Lockhart ladies hot footed it down to Philadelphia eight (8!) times over seven days. 

It was not planned.  The first time we headed down was an evening.  The three of us sitting around the living room at 2501 Woodland Road, having a wonderful time with Ian Cole, who was just a toddler, and watching Channel 6's coverage of the special Mummer's Parade, which was just starting its way up the Parkway.    

The reporter said, "This is a GLORIOUS sight.  If you can, come on down!"  That was all we needed to hear.  We piled into the van and were downtown in no time.  

I would not have missed that experience for the world (remember, I was just a kid of 66).  Ian, enjoying a front row seat in his stroller, thought it was all for him and him alone.  That is what I remember most - the look of complete delight on that little boys face. 

We went down every day, twice on one day.  On the actual 4th, which fell on a Sunday, we went to the Du Pont Hotel for a spectacular brunch, then to Philadelphia for the rest of the day.  They set off fireworks from the tops of building on three sides of Independence Mall.  I have never seen anything to come close to touching it.   Just as wonderful as the fireworks and more genuinely awesome was the short shower we had that afternoon that ended up in a double rainbow over the Delaware.  God's very own light show! 

We were surprised on how painless the drive home was - people who had gone to Willow Grove for fireworks, who thought we were nuts to battle the Philadelphia traffic, got home long after we did!!   As for our hometown celebration, we did not miss a thing, since Bryn Athyn – like many towns – delayed whoop-dee-doing until the next day.  Thank goodness our nation's 200th birthday fell on a Sunday!

Just Mim and Elsa got down for what she wrote the short story about.  The visit of the Queen of England and Prince Philip to Philadelphia.  I remember Mim describing the shock she felt when she looked at the yacht Britannia and realized the royal standard was flying over the Delaware River instead of over Buckingham Palace.  That made it real. 

Anyhow, this is the story Mim wrote about it.  It is dear to my heart and, I am sure, will be to Paddington lovers everywhere (Mim really caught Michael Bond's style).

Paddington scurried along behind the crowd.  He was trying desperately to keep up although he had nary a clue where they were going or what they would see.  All he knew was that if he was lost in this big city it would be quite nasty.  And he was grumpy about having to leave his vegetable garden.  It did need weeding so!

Everyone was hurrying, hurrying.  Their legs could take it in stride, but Paddington's were growing tender.  He was beginning to wish they would stop.

It was bad enough to run along the bumpy sidewalks;  now they were in a construction area.  Up and over, around and under ~ WHEW!

By the time they had reached Front Street, the dust and heat were choking and burning him.  "Bother," puffed Paddington.

All of a sudden, they came to a dead halt, smack up against a large wall.  "Hmmm," mused Paddington, "They do have odd ideas of sights in America."

However, he was aware of a great excitement all around him, and snatches of strange phrases - "There she is!"   "She's lovely!"  "I'll take him any day."

Slowly, it dawned on Paddington that perhaps there was something on the other side of the wall.  But no one was paying any attention to him, which was distressing. 

Accidentally-on-purpose, he trod on Elsa's toes.

"Ouch," exclaimed Elsa, glancing down at Paddington.   "Oh dear, excuse me, you can't see way down there."

Elsa lifted him up onto the wall.  He stood stock still with his mouth wide open.  Mercy me!  Mercy me!  He could only stare.

Way out, across a huge road, riding at anchor at Penn's Landing, was the Britannia.  Snapping in the wind, high about the deck on the main mast, flew the royal standard.

Paddington stared.  Suddenly, Elsa picked him off the wall and ran to a low barricade.  She put him down and shoved a small Union Jack into his hand.

They were just in time!  Along the road roared a brace of motorcycles.  Following close behind the motorcycles came a big black car full of somber men.

"How delightful,"  thought Paddington.  "A parade!"

Further down the way, another big car, with flags on it, was slowly progressing.  As it slunk past Paddington, he suddenly raised his flag and saluted.

The Queen smiled a warm smile.  It wasn't every day that she was greet to a big city by a small English bear with tears in his eyes, his hat over his heart, and the British flag held solidly aloft.

*******  Mim concluded with the postscript 
"To commemorate the visit of  Her Royal Majesty Elizabeth II  July 6, 1976, in honor of the 200th anniversary of the birth of a new nation, the free and United States of America, on July 4th 1776."     

The little book was unillustrated, but I can see it all in my heart.   All these years later, that little story and all that went with it brings happy tears to my eyes.

Lots of love to all & sundry - Mim's Mom

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