My mother has always been a world-class clipping service. For years her family and friends could expect to receive regular infusions of articles on topics of presumed interest.
I don’t know when she started sending articles about all things papal to her school friend Joan, in California. Joan and Mom were schoolmates at St Anthony’s in Long Beach, California, during WW2; my grandfather had returned to Egypt and the rest of the family waited for the war to end so they could join him. Later Joan became a nun, a modern social-working nun, but still very much a Catholic, and so of course my mother assumed she would want to keep abreast of news about the pope, any pope. When questioned about this many years ago, my mother asserted that newspapers in California did not cover news about the pope. Not ever. Never. I argued with her about this, pointlessly. I no longer argue with her.
Over the years, my mother has sent her brother hundreds, possibly thousands, of articles referencing Egypt. She sent her nephew anything about Elizabeth Warren. She sent me anything to do with honeybees, or saints. She sent my brother articles about the environment. I could go on.
So the current incarnation of her clipping service is not a complete stretch. Last fall she asked me if I knew Hillary Clinton. I had to admit that I did not personally know her. But I knew someone who did. Then she handed me a manila envelope stuffed with articles, mostly from the NY Times, about Hillary and her run for president, and asked me to deliver it. I said I would.
Earlier this week she handed me two bundles, and asked me to send them to “that woman over there”.
Of course I said I would make sure she received the articles. What else could I have said?
I could have wept, it is true.
My mother was never an Anglophile. Like her Belgian relatives, she is, or was, an anti-monarchist. But she delivered to me two packages filled with articles about Brexit and its implications, both addressed to the Queen of England.
Package number one contained 7 articles from the New York Times, dated from February to December 2016. There were 3 articles from the Economist, one from the Boston Globe, and one from This Week. Also in that package, addressed to the Queen of England, were a letter from her Belgian niece (first cousin once removed?), dated February 2017; a postcard, featuring a painting by Gustave Moreau of a peacock and Juno, from the same Belgian niece dated, November 2016; and an undated note from someone named Judy, relating the recent death of her sister-in-law.
Package number two likewise contained fourteen articles about Brexit and or Theresa May or both, clipped from the New York Times. And a receipt from The Cloisters gift shop.
How can I not find this phenomenon fascinating? My mother has no idea what or who Brexit is. She cannot name the queen. Yet she clipped these many articles, and in several cases, underlined them. Even as Alzheimer’s is wreaking havoc with her mind and memory, there remains a tattered relic of the impulse to gather evidence and to impart information.
But why Brexit? Why not the Syrian crisis, or Bolivian devaluation, or Marine le Pen? Why the Queen?