Both of my children, for reasons too long to go into here, were born via C-section. Â One the one hand, that kind of stank Â (fiery incision pain, inability to stand upright or use my abdominal muscles, etc.). Â On the other hand, it had its pluses,including the fact that I got eight whole weeks of maternity leave as opposed to Â six Â (insert diatribe about how US policymakers need to learn from their more enlightened Scandinavian counterparts). Â Â 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.” Â Call me loco, but I loved my hospital stays. Â I loved them because for the first time in my life, I could push a button and other people would come wait on me. Â They brought me water whenever I asked for it. Â They changed my sheets for me. Â Â They helped me dress. Â They Â fixed me dinner and brought it to my bedside on a tray. Â It was like Club Med, without the beach. Â 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. Â It also explains, at least in part, why I love “Downton Abbey.”
I’ve been a fan since Season One, and Â this new season couldn’t come soon enough. Â 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. Â I get to live vicariously in a genteel world of ancient estates and devoted servants and ringing for tea. Â 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. Â It’s a weird paradox that although I like being pampered, Â I have a very hard time actually letting people do it. Â I always feel as though there is something else that they could be doing for themselves, not for me. Â That’s why the hospital stays were so nice: there was no possibility that I could do anything Â for myself, so I was able to fully relax and enjoy the experience as much as I could, guilt-free. Â 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. Â 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. Â (I don’t feel a whit bad for Thomas, though. Â 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. Â 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. Â Â In our own world, those are the people who pick our crops and empty our trashcans and clean our offices. Â And — just as we see every time “Downton” ventures into the servants’ hall — their stories are fascinating and important, too.
And — spiritual musings aside — Â I love “Downton” Â for the sheer soap-opera drama of it all. Â This season has not disappointed. Â Oh, poor Edith! Â (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?”) Â 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. Â And will Sibyl and Branson ever feel completely at home with her family? Â Â Yes, I pretty much live for Sunday nights now.
Are a fan, too? Â Do the same things that appeal to me appeal to you? Â What do you think of the new season?