This past week Queen Elizabeth II became Great Britain’s the longest-serving monarch, besting Queen Victoria’s record of more than 63 years. Considering the changes Great Britain has undergone in the past six-plus decades, from the dismantling of its empire to its deindustrialization (with the Beatles, the Sex Pistols, Mary Quant, The Smiths, and Alexander McQueen tossed into the mix), she is a rare constant presence: smiling, cutting ribbons, offering decorum in a seemingly endless variety of atrocious pastel outfits. (Incidentally, the Royal cliché is available as a plastic doll, solar powered )

However, I think of the Queen when she was young and pretty, and embracing the new technology of television. The annual Royal Christmas address to the Empire was nothing new in 1957 (it had been broadcast over the radio for more than twenty years), but that year’s address was the first to be televised. In it, the Queen contemplated the enormous changes of the time, and talked about the conundrum of which traditions to keep, and which to discard. It’s an eternal question-as life changes, and as our needs change, which things do we keep, and why?

Earlier this year I cleared out my parents’ apartment, as they took up residence in a nursing wing of their continuing care facility. While their apartment was small-and in itself a downsizing of a much larger house, sold in 2011-it still contained a ton of stuff. Paintings, furniture, clothes, appliances-what to keep, and what to toss? They now lived in single quasi-hospital rooms, so anything that wasn’t an essential treasure left. It wasn’t easy: my mother and I spent about two weeks making difficult (and often emotionally charged) decisions. Now that it’s over, we’re all relieved and content with our choices, all of which represent things that are most important to us.

To see how Queen Elizabeth addressed accepting a changing world, click here:

If you had to reduce your life to one room, what would you keep?
Best regards,
Jim Shulman