Both of my children, for reasons too long to go into here, were born via C-section. One the one hand, that kind of stank (fiery incision pain, inability to stand upright or use my abdominal muscles, etc.). On the other hand, it had its pluses,including the fact that I got eight whole weeks of maternity leave as opposed to six (insert diatribe about how US policymakers need to learn from their more enlightened Scandinavian counterparts). But one of the best things about having a C-section was getting to spend four whole nights in the hospital.
Yes, I said “getting to,” not “having to.” Call me loco, but I loved my hospital stays. I loved them because for the first time in my life, I could push a button and other people would come wait on me. They brought me water whenever I asked for it. They changed my sheets for me. They helped me dress. They fixed me dinner and brought it to my bedside on a tray. It was like Club Med, without the beach. I am considering having a third child just so I can go back for more.
This obviously indicates something about my life, namely the fact that I (like most moms) don’t get a lot of pampering. It also explains, at least in part, why I love “Downton Abbey.”
I’ve been a fan since Season One, and this new season couldn’t come soon enough. Watching the Crawley family, I get pulled into a beautiful fantasy about a life of leisure, a life without the drudgery of housecleaning and meal preparation and rushing out the door into the morning commute. I get to live vicariously in a genteel world of ancient estates and devoted servants and ringing for tea. And oh, it all sounds so lovely.
At the same time, I love the show because it also satisfies the flip side of my desire to be pampered: that side of me that I guess could be called my social conscience. It’s a weird paradox that although I like being pampered, I have a very hard time actually letting people do it. I always feel as though there is something else that they could be doing for themselves, not for me. That’s why the hospital stays were so nice: there was no possibility that I could do anything for myself, so I was able to fully relax and enjoy the experience as much as I could, guilt-free. And another thing that “Downton Abbey” does so well (much like “Upstairs, Downstairs” did) is show the harsh reality of being a servant and working very very hard for very very little reward. You can’t help but feel bad for poor little Daisy the kitchen maid, or for Mrs. Hughes, who never gets to put her feet up with a good book. (I don’t feel a whit bad for Thomas, though. I have my limits.)
So “Downton Abbey” is not just an Anglophile’s fantasy about living in a lovely place and being treated like royalty. It also acknowledges that even in a pretty world, there are people all around us who do difficult work on a daily basis and often fly below the radar of our consciousness. In our own world, those are the people who pick our crops and empty our trashcans and clean our offices. And — just as we see every time “Downton” ventures into the servants’ hall — their stories are fascinating and important, too.
And — spiritual musings aside — I love “Downton” for the sheer soap-opera drama of it all. This season has not disappointed. Oh, poor Edith! (I was so devastated by what happened during the last episode that my husband finally had to say, “You do know she’s a fictional character, right?”) And I would not have thought it possible in the first season, but Thomas’ shenanigans are actually making me feel sorry for Miss O’Brien. And will Sibyl and Branson ever feel completely at home with her family? Yes, I pretty much live for Sunday nights now.
Are a fan, too? Do the same things that appeal to me appeal to you? What do you think of the new season?