Watch Me

Living with royalty can be a difficult challenge. When I was wooing Kay I did not realize how close to the sun I was flying. It was not until we were at the point of no return in our courtship that I discovered I was marrying a double-crowned queen. Apparently back in the day when the world did not spin quite so chaotically, there are no rules governing the number of times one could be nominated to the “royal” court of school athletics or win the honor of being crowned Queen in multiple sports. Her first entrance into such noble and rarefied air was in junior high when she was nominated to be on the court for the football team. She later went on to become the Homecoming Queen for the baseball team. Then in her senior year of high school she was also crowned Homecoming Queen for the football team. And yes, we have the tiaras and yearbook pictures to prove it.

Kay Patton as football Homecoming Queen, 1970

Kay Patton as football Homecoming Queen, 1970

A little known story regarding her status in the Homecoming Court for football during her middle school year involved her escort. Tradition was that a co-captain of the football team would accompany the female members of the court onto the field, present her with a bouquet of roses, and grace her with a peck on the cheek. All a part of the ritual except that year Kay served on the court one of the captains was an African-American. This was the first year of integrated schools in her small town, and until then, the football team had never had a black player. The football coach approached Kay and her mother privately and asked if the African-American captain could be Kay’s attendant. The coach explained that he expected some resistance from other parents if their daughter was put in this position, and he felt Kay and her mother would be more open to this integrated homecoming court. He was correct. This example of courage by Kay and her mother did not make the headlines or change the world, but such action goes a long way in the generational bloodstream that flows in a family as positive DNA revealing how one human being ought to respect and treat another.

Over the years of being married to a queen, I have witnessed queenly behavior both high and low, mostly for the greater good, but on rare occasion, for the not-so-good. My chief concern was for any adverse effects this behavior might have on our two daughters. Both our girls attended the same university in Philadelphia, so for a number of years Kay and I were burning up the highway between here and there. One year during the fall season, like all universities, there was a campus-wide event where the students and families, faculty and alumni, gathered for the crowning of the queen for that year. The university was more progressive than most and the nomination process included the crowning of a king as well. Our youngest daughter, Lauren, was nominated one year, and of course, my queen and I drove up for the ceremony. Not to keep up the suspense, but that weekend we had the pleasure of watching a second generation queen inducted into our family.

Sign speaks for itself

Sign speaks for itself

We went to dinner that night to celebrate. Afterwards as we were pulling out of the parking lot and came to a stop at the entrance/exit of the restaurant, Kay began swiveling her head from left to right looking for openings onto the main, heavily trafficked, four-lane highway. We needed to turn left to head back to the campus, and the queen was at the wheel totally ignoring not one, but five clearly visible signs across the highway informing all drivers, great and small, royal and common, of the illegality of a left turn. Drivers were expected to turn right into the flow of traffic and not cross three lanes (one a turning lane) of oncoming traffic, but my queen was having none of it. As she waited for the oncoming traffic to clear so she could gun her way across the three lanes, both our newest crowned queen, her older sister, and I, all loyal subjects, pointed out the five signs informing her not to do what she was about to do. She just huffed, and with queenly scorn said, “Watch me!” just before zipping our car across the three lanes and heading in the desired direction.

I suggested her decision was a poor example of driving etiquette, not to mention the threat to life and limb, for the queen mother to display for the queen daughter and her sister, but my admonition fell on deaf ears. We weren’t on the road thirty seconds before the blue and red lights began to flash behind us, and I thought to myself, now a higher power would provide the object lesson my queen deserved and one from which the queen daughter and her sister could benefit. I could not contain my amusement as the officer walked up to the driver’s side of police-giving-a-ticketthe car. The queen rolled down her window, and before she could even say “hello,” the officer began reciting a litany of her infractions: clearly marked signs impossible to miss, blatant violations of state laws, and that he was required to see her license, registration, and proof of insurance. The officer’s monologue took upwards of two minutes and was spoken with a rapid, clipped, authoritarian, northern accent that, I hate to admit, was difficult to follow. Once he had finished, he paused as much for dramatic effect as to catch his breath, and Kay seized the moment with disarming aplomb.

“Officer, I’m from the south,” the queen began, her own accent loosened up by southern charm and elongated syllables. “And I didn’t understand a single word you just said. Do you mind repeating the information…slowly?”

Sir Alec Guinness as Obi-wan Kenobi

Sir Alec Guinness as Obi-wan Kenobi

Between the police vehicle’s bright headlights and flashing blues and reds, the officer’s stunned expression was lit with cinematic skill. Here was a moment of reckoning. Here was an on-the-spot “truth to power” instance for the universe to observe. Of course, this “truth to power” moment depended on one’s perspective. Kay knew she was speaking to someone that could throw the book at her, but the officer had no idea he was addressing the queen. In that freeze-frame second, the queen’s immediate family witnessed a “may the Force be with you” moment as though Obi-wan Kenobi had waved his hand in front of the officer’s eyes evaporating all cognitive skills. The officer’s entire demeanor changed. He dropped his head and sighed—the metaphoric wind knocked out of his sails—and a smile appeared on his brightly illuminated face. The queen had prevailed, and she drove away with only a warning…spoken slowly for comprehension.

I bowed before my queen in complete awe of her power as we sailed down the highway humming the Sonny Curtis song, “I Fought the Law;” a tune, I thought, was  unfamiliar to the queen’s daughters. But then was shocked to learn that the newest queen in the family had herself used similar charms in her criminal past to talk her way out of traffic violations proving once again that the apple does not fall far from the tree. Where had I failed?

Marilyn Monroe, a true Hollywood queen

Marilyn Monroe, a true Hollywood queen

I have gladly accepted Kay’s call to “Watch Me” for a host of reasons. She is worthy of viewing by those throughout the land for all manner of estimable qualities, except perhaps, and only on occasion as the dark side of her queenly nature rears its ugly head, when it comes to getting behind the wheel of a car. We have been married for many decades, and I can say with each passing year her wisdom, grace, humility, and beauty confirms what a fortunate man I am. And while she does not adjust her crown before the start of each day (it remains stored in the attic), royalty suits her. She wears it well, and without hesitation, I can point with pride and say, “I’m with her.”