I wake up every morning between 5 and 6, so it will be no great sacrifice for me to watch the wedding of His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales to his fiancée, Kate Middleton, early Friday morning. But I must confess that even if it required setting several alarms, I would plan on watching the royal wedding live.
I know I'm not alone in my interest in the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton, just as I know that there are many who couldn't care less. I am also aware of those who don't understand why a black American with no allegiance to the English crown is even remotely interested in the personal lives of people who wield no real power over my country, nor their own.
But my interest in royal weddings dates back, way back. When I was a little girl, my grandmother told me that when she was 12 or so, Queen Elizabeth visited the then-British colony of Jamaica. My grandmother says that she saw the queen, who toured the island, including St. Ann, the village where my grandmother grew up.
Perhaps this really happened, perhaps it did not, but the tremor of my grandmother's voice as she gave her account made it all true for me. Thanks to my grandmother, I've always considered association with the queen a source of privilege and pride.
Other than my grandmother's story, there was no real talk of England or the monarchy in my house. We spoke patois at home, ate rice and peas every night, and laughed at poems by folklorist Miss Lou and skits by comedian Oliver Samuels. Although Jamaica didn't gain its independence from England until 1962, my parents never described their childhoods in the context of growing up in an English colony. Their Jamaica always had a national identity and distinct traditions.
But for some reason, perhaps thanks to my grandmother, I became fascinated with English history and culture. I took a keen interest in English literature, particularly the works of Shakespeare. I drank Earl Grey and English breakfast tea as if it were an obligation, not just a beverage option. I spent Friday evenings watching British comedies such as As Time Goes By, Keeping Up Appearances and Absolutely Fabulous.
I also developed a crush on Prince William sometime around my 11th birthday and convinced myself that during my routine stay with family in Jamaica, the prince — on holiday, of course — would see me at Dunn's River Falls and fall madly in love.
My mom had just taken the plastic off the couch, and it was a good summer to watch television. I watched that wedding from beginning to end. It was gorgeous — I had never seen anything like it. The closest thing to it had to have been the wedding scene in Coming to America.
Watching Princess Diana's wedding, I learned that English weddings are not merely ceremonies. They are ecumenical services. In addition to the Easter-like hats donned by every female guest, there were hymns and readings of Scripture. The wedding was full of symbolism and steeped in tradition.
I wanted to know who everyone was, what everything meant and why any of it mattered. The broadcast was the first and only time I saw Prince Charles smile, almost boyishly, as Princess Diana greeted him at the altar. This wedding was true and real, even though the marriage didn't have a happily-ever-after ending.
My mother married my father two weeks after Princess Diana married Prince Charles, in 1981. They married in the Wakefield section of the Bronx, N.Y., where Jamaican gypsy-cab drivers greet you with offers of a cheap ride home from the subway line, and where beef patties and slices of pizza are part of a balanced diet.
I like to imagine my mother watching Princess Diana's wedding while attending to some wedding-related task of her own, like finalizing seating arrangements or writing place cards, surrounded by her two older sisters and her best friend. I imagined them watching TV, praying along with the clergy when it was praying time and singing along with the congregation when it was singing time.
I bet my mom and her party had a pot of oxtails stewing in the kitchen. I can say this with near certainty because this is how, 30 years later, these four women still watch television today, and this is how they will watch the wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles' son to his fiancée.
A friend of mine recently tweeted that her co-worker is taking the day off to watch Prince William marry Kate. She remarked that her co-worker is Jamaican, as if that would explain her decision. I don't know what kind of Jamaican takes a day off to watch television. Besides, an informal poll of my friends actually revealed that more of my U.S.-born friends are tuning in than are those from the Caribbean or Africa.
I wish I could watch Prince William and Kate tie the knot with my mom and aunts. I wish I could take a three-day weekend for the trip back to New York. Instead, I will watch as much as I can on the treadmill at the gym and catch the rest online. I hope to see a happy couple committed to sharing the rest of their royal lives together, young and hopeful, surrounded by friends and family who wish the very best for them. After all, royal or not, that's what a wedding is supposed to be — and that is why I am watching.
Maria Nicole Smith is the development specialist at the Anacostia Community Museum in Southeast D.C., a Smithsonian museum focused on community issues.