A confession: I did not get up early to watch the Queen’s funeral. I did scroll through the pictures and videos later in the day (a second confession: I wanted to see what Kate and Meghan wore). So, this is not a blog about that beautiful and precise liturgy; it’s not a blog about monarchy and colonialism; it’s not even about Queen Elizabeth. Since the announcement of her death and the ascension of Charles, I’ve been thinking about a line from a poem, “Kings never touch doors.”
The poem, “The Pleasures of the Door,” is by Francis Ponge, and I have a framed copy of the translation by C. K. Williams on a shelf in our family room. And the reason for this peculiar bit of shelf-filler is that when my kids were little, one of them absolutely loved to open and shut doors. Opening and closing doors all day long, risking fingers by slamming them, playing peek-a-boo with his brother or anyone – including the dog, giggling with delight seemingly every time he opened the door again. How in the world could he derive so much pleasure? Ponge suggests that it’s the grand possibility of a door, a barrier easily removed, new vistas revealed, down to the satisfying “click of the well-oiled latch.”
But the poet reminds us at the opening, “Kings (and queens) never touch doors.” Someone opens every door for them. They are honored in this way, but they are also denied a simple pleasure at the same time. It’s curious. I could get lost in wondering what it would be like to live a life in a palace and this week’s non-stop-coverage of British royal life has in many ways been a welcome distraction to ordinary and extraordinary worries of our lives of late. Yet, as much as I may be entranced by some of the pomp and circumstance, I find I am just as likely to rejoice in the fact that no one is hiring a lip-reading expert to figure out what my children are saying as they walk into church. And I’m even more grateful that in my own moments of grief, I can respond based on how I feel rather than within the trappings of protocol.
It’s a funny thing: bubbles and protection. I think I want them. I think I might want to be driven everywhere and insulated from the rough and tumble world. I think I might like a castle with a moat. But the thing is, I like driving. I like opening and closing doors. And this puts me back into the world with all its chaotic fellow travelers. This means that I open doors and see things I wish I hadn’t seen sometimes, and sometimes giggle with delight at what is revealed. This means people see me when I ugly-cry. This also means that I get to see the first leaves starting to change and bump into a friendly stranger waiting for my Starbucks order.
Being royalty seems lonely. Believing that I could seal myself up from the unpredictable world and in so doing find peace is a false hope. One of the most beautiful, true things I know is that God came all the way into the world to bump into us, to get hurt, to delight in the change of season, to love us up close in a messy, defiantly un-protocoled way, and to open some doors.
“The Pleasures of the Door,” Francis Ponge (translated by C.K. Williams)
Kings never touch doors.
They’re not familiar with this happiness: to push, gently or roughly before you one of these great, friendly panels, to turn towards it to put it back in place—to hold a door in your arms.
The happiness of seizing one of these tall barriers to a room by the porcelain knob of its belly; this quick hand-to-hand, during which your progress slows for a moment, your eye opens up and your whole body adapts to its new apartment.
With a friendly hand you hold on a bit longer, before firmly pushing it back and shutting yourself in—of which you are agreeably assured by the click of the powerful, well-oiled latch.
11 thoughts on “Royalty & Doors”
As a door guy I can certainly appreciate this. I touch, know and continue to learn all there is to know about doors each and every day. But I still yearn for the title “King of Doors”!
I love the idea of learning new things about doors!
$18/hr to start learning lol
age-old conundrum: insulation or full sensory vulnerability. Beautiful way to image it, Katherine.
age-old indeed: stay in the garden and not know about the world, or go out into it with all its risks.
You have definitely reminded me of some of the odd experiences and protections of my childhood. I was nine before I realized that some of my experiences were not normal, and began to get some explanations from my parents. My father worked for the government, was involved in trying to settle some difficult labor disputes, and apparently there was at least one assassination attempt. I thought having the FBI come to the door was normal, a month or so in a hotel was normal (actually the elevator was great fun), and I had no idea that the nice man who went with us to the zoo was a bodyguard. By hindsight, I wonder what the younger royals must understand the way they live?
Fascinating! And yes, all the more peculiar to consider children’s perspectives and the stories they tell themselves…
i have several door knobs around my home. I just like them. They are old and cool! I am glad that I get to open my own doors. I am most certainly glad that I do not have to practice protocol!!! Such good writing, Katherine Bush.
Loving the small things with you!
Just read this – finally! Thanks for the insight. I too am glad to open my own doors. And thankful for the doors of Calvary!
Glad to share in the simple joy, Mary. And I love the Cavlary doors too – especially when it’s my task to open the big red doors with their old-school latches!