Like any holiday, Valentine’s Day has its various traditions. For Thanksgiving, gathering around massive tables in Welfleet or Truro Massachusetts was a big one. New Year’s was most often best celebrated with Phish. And Valentine’s Day?
That was a special day, indeed.
See, rotate the earth back a bit (like the way Superman did in the first Motion Picture) and slow down our passage once we reach 1937, and we can stop our reverse rotation. On that day, my alma mater celebrated by sending out Valentine’s cards to a whole lot of young men. But in a little known corner of the US of A, a place called Michigan, a baby was experiencing his first chill. That baby grew into the soldier below.
“Who is that handsome chap?” you ask.
That just so happens to be Douglas Murray Queen, my father. This photo was taken before grafted cameras became the norm of the generations. In saying, this places this photo as being quite the stellar rarity for the times. What were those times? 61 years ago at Fort Leonard Wood, MO. The thing I love most about this photo is the way he seems to be swimming in that helmet of his.
The military wasn’t really his calling, and after some time in the admin pool, he went off to college, got a degree or two, and eventually had kids.
The boat wasn’t ours, I’m sorry to say. Chances are good it was a rental out on Cape Cod. We would go fishing out there every once in a while, but were never wholly invested in that. For Douglas, the real call of la vie sportif was hockey. Back in the days around my birth, the New York Islanders were on fire and the guy in the above photo enjoyed multiple season passes through it all.
In New Canaan, Connecticut, he would carry his passion for the sport to the local rinks at the Winter Club. Dozens of youngsters enjoyed his training and passion for the ice, including myself and three brothers. One of the greatest birthday gifts that we brothers ever did for him happened on his 70th birthday. I was living in China at the time, and Nick, Derrick, Steve, and I colluded to get together down in New York, where Derrick was living.
Walking into Derrick’s flat and seeing the look on my dad’s face was priceless. It was one of those “I know you!” mixed with a “Wait… you’re not supposed to be here,” mixed with that strange look that a child gives their teacher when they cross paths at a supermarket. Utterly priceless.
“Robert, this is quite the surprise!” he said, getting all formal as he does in such situations. For a while, we four brothers just sat back and enjoyed his massive grins at having all four of his boys together for his 70th birthday. But the best was yet to come.
We took him to an Island game that night. Sadly, I brought the standard bad luck; I honestly can’t recall the Islanders ever winning a game when I was present.
“Maybe you should have stayed in China,” dad told me after making that comment to him. It was playfully done, so no hard feelings; and it goes to show just how relaxed and good he was feeling that night.
Following the game, we helped bring a longtime dream to reality: we got together with two of his Islander heroes from that remarkable time: Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier.
It was a pretty good time. Yes, I am deliberately downplaying how cool it was. Sometimes, words just don’t do the memory justice.
So to you, Douglas Queen, a very happy birthday!
To the rest of you, thanks for joining me in a traditional Valentine’s Day celebration – at least where the Queen family is concerned.
Black Panther is coming out this weekend, and I’ll get a review of it for you all.
I saw the Mike Gordon Band last Friday, and will get a review for you all soon.
My latest novel, Escape from the Spotlight is available at Amazon.com.
Love, hugs, chocolate, and inflatable hearts to you all!
The Queen has spoken.