* ENCOUNTERS: W. H. Auden *

Pat Harrison - at Christmas
Patricia Harrison

It's not clear to me if my mother ever really knew the poet W. H. Auden, but she certainly met him at least once, when she witnessed the following charming incident:

A rich young woman she knew had a crush on Auden, which was as painful and hopeless as women's infatuations with gay men tend to be. Auden, though he did not return her passion, treated her with kindness and affection.

One day her friend had a huge party at her parents' estate. Though the party was a great success, the hostess was miserable. All night, she kept watching the driveway, waiting for Auden to arrive. He never did.

The next day, despite the success of her party, she remained unhappy all day. Then, about five o'clock, a car pulled up with two men in it, loudly honking and cheering: Auden and his friend.

"Where is everybody? When's the party start?"

He'd gotten the date wrong, by one day. Which I imagine only endeared him more to my mother's friend.