Crossing Paths with The Queen

Guest post alert: Following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II last week, we dedicate this post to her memory. She led a truly extraordinary life. This week, my mom, Susan Mason, shares a treasured memory of being on an outing with dear friends and running into Queen Elizabeth in my hometown of Lexington, Ky.

As the years pass, distance and health often separate us from our closest and dearest friends. However, the shared memories remain.

While living in Lexington, Ky., during the early years of my marriage, our family made fast friends with a family from Israel. The dad was a post-doctoral researcher in the Pharmacy School at the University of Kentucky and has since become an internationally respected scientist at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His wife recently retired after a successful career as a psychiatric nurse at Hadassah Medical Center.

Our Israeli friends only resided in Lexington for a few short years, but they were back visiting us in October of 1984. We were all looking forward to an afternoon at Keeneland, which is an internationally revered Thoroughbred race track. If you’ve never been there, I highly recommend it. Even if you’re not a fan of Thoroughbred racing, the grounds at Keeneland are stunning and offer a great way to enjoy a day in a unique, park-like setting with friends and family.

It was a lovely Fall afternoon when we arrived and parked our car. Our goal was to show up around the time of the fourth race of the day to avoid the bulk of the traffic and crowds of people all heading toward the entrance. As we walked toward the entrance, the parking area was full of cars but most of the people were already inside.

That’s when I noticed a solitary woman quite close to us but on the other side of a fence. She appeared to be alone, no one walking with her. She wore an elegant outfit that included a hat, handbag and gloves. I recall commenting something along the lines of: “That woman looks familiar. I must know her from around town, but she looks a lot like Queen Elizabeth. Why would she be wearing gloves on such a hot day?” We all just kept walking to the entrance.

It wasn’t until we saw the day’s racing form that we realized the Queen was actually in the house that day. She was there for the inaugural race of “Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup” in her honor. After the running of the race, the Queen–with her gloved hands–presented the trophy to the winning jockey. The jockey accepted the trophy and then extended his hand to shake. The Queen did not reciprocate. After listening to the news following the recent death of Elizabeth II, I learned Queens do not shake hands.

Our wonderful afternoon at Keeneland became a lasting memory. We still reminisce with our friends about that day. Nowadays, the vast distance between my home on Cape Cod in Massachusetts and our friends’ home in Tel Aviv physically separates us, but the strong link between our families continues as a result of our many shared experiences–including that day when the Queen was at the races with us. Each year since 1984, Keeneland has continued to present the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup in the Fall racing season.

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