Since my childhood, I've always had an infatuation with the Royal family.
Maybe it was "too-many-Disney-movies-itis" where the plain girl turns into a beautiful princess and lives happily ever after. Or perhaps is was the long gowns, bejeweled crowns and tempered, aristocratic waves from high balconies.
Whatever it was, there was a magic to it, a magic that has captivated me my whole life and, this morning, followed me to the South Lawn of the White House where President Bush welcomed Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, as a special guest.
Crowds of "commoners" formed across the South Lawn behind security lines and press bleachers while VIPs lined the sides of the upper lawn.
Clutching cameras in one hand and Union Jack and American flags in the other, they watched military color guard parade with ceremony and circumstance, dressed in pressed uniforms in air-tight formations.
A fife and drum corps along with the Air Force band belted out a regal soundtrack and the White House balcony was draped with American and British flags.
The President and First Lady were announced but all eyes were on Queen Elizabeth, whose audience I had always dreamed of being a part of. (Prince Phillip was there too, but all eyes were on Elizabeth!)
From the press bleachers, I peeked my head in between the soldiers and the podium to get a solid look at Her Majesty, decked out in a white and black suit, black patent heels, a shiny black purse and proper British hat.
(In my mind's eye, I was hoping for royal jewels, a velvet cape and a bejeweled septor but I'm hoping those will make an appearance for the State Dinner later on!)
I, like most of the crowd, leaned in a bit closer as if that extra half inch would give me a better look at Her Royal Highness. She made her way, shaking hands before taking the podium, and finally as she walked up the stairs I had a solid eye shot of her and she looked every bit of regal as I thought she would.
The band played both national anthems with cannons booming in the background -- and if there was ever a time for cannons this was it.
Bush and the Queen then inspected the troops which meant she was walking towards the military and towards me!
It might have only been a few seconds but I got a great look at the 81-year-old Queen who kept up quite well with the President's quick stride -- not sure if my grandmother could have kept up with that pace.
Back up to the podium, standing straight, never making sudden movements, I watched intently as she gracefully opened her purse to take out her prepared remarks.
My eye caught a wrinkle in her skirt, a detail that filled with me an absurd joy in knowing however pressed and perfect even royalty can't escape fashion blemishes.
When the President goofed a line in reference to her 1976 trip to the States -- instead saying she came in 1776 -- she cracked an unreadable smile, surely not thrilled for being cited as over 200 years old. I too would not have been amused.
In my morning excitement, I left my camera at home but took in the regal scene unfolding in front of me with the realization that no photograph could ever do it justice.
I felt a small amount of awe watching the woman who at age 25 inherited the throne and has been a dutiful (yet doted on) public servant.
As the Queen spoke in her impeccable aristocratic British accent I blinked just make sure yes I was here not hearing this on TV or radio -- she was in front of me, I tried to soak up her accent hoping maybe some would come way and tame my banal American accent.
As the program wrapped up a photo op ensued and then there it was… the royal wave, practiced perfection!
It ended as quickly as it began -- no more than 30 minutes and 26 years in the making, a dream of actually seeing the Queen had lasted a lifetime and had finally been achieved.