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I’ll admit it was my Sunday night guilty pleasure. Everyone in the house knew not to bother me once the music for Masterpiece Theater came on. I was hooked. And I was one of those who cried when the series finale was over. I just couldn’t bear to let those people go because they’d become friends. I’d rooted for them and I’d rooted against them. And now they were gone.
But despite their absence from TV, there are lessons that we can learn from the characters. Because at heart, Downton Abbey was about people and their relationships with others. Granted, they took place in surroundings that few of us can even imagine, but when you peel back all the lovely things, you’ve got a story about people and how they get along – or don’t get along – with each other.
[bctt tweet=”We rooted for – and against – the characters in Downton Abbey.” username=”@sasmerchant”]
Love isn’t just for the young
Did your heart melt when Mr. Carson finally proposed marriage to Mrs. Hughes? Mine did. And who hasn’t had doubts about their attractiveness and desirability? Mrs. Hughes was just like most of us, concerned that time and age might leave her lacking in the eyes of Mr. Hughes. Funny that Mr. Hughes wasn’t shown as having the same concerns. Whether it’s simply a woman’s concern or just something that men don’t tend to express, this couple showed us that when someone loves you, they do find you attractive and desirable. Mr. Carson’s response probably increased his desirability to the rest of us as well because who can resist a man who thinks that his love is truly lovely?
Who couldn’t tell that Mrs. Patmore and Mr. Mason had eyes for each other? Despite Daisy’s attitude that they couldn’t possibly be interested in each other – because the young always know that people get too old for love – Mrs Patmore and Mr. Mason both sparkled a little brighter when in the company of the other. None of us ever gets too old, or loses our need, for love. In my mind, these two walked off into their sunset years holding hands even if the series didn’t end with that as a certainty – but I know that they did.
It doesn’t hurt to accept help when you need it
Other than Edith, no one seemed to have more obstacles to happiness thrown in their path than Anna and Bates. One season he’d be in jail, the next season it would be her turn. Their love seemed to be under a perpetual black cloud. Having a baby was something they both looked forward to and longed for, but as usual, even that was difficult for this pair.
So when Anna seemed to be on the verge of losing another baby during the last season her only hope of a successful delivery depended on both Anna and Bates being able to accept help from Mary to get Anna the medical help she needed to carry the baby to term. Many of us find it difficult to ask for, and then accept, help. Sometimes it’s a matter of pride, stubbornness, or the feeling that we should be self-sufficient that makes it hard for us to accept a helping hand. Needing assistance does not make us dependent, but being able to accept it can help us realize how important our connections to other people are.
A good mother puts her child’s needs above her own
Cora was good at keeping secrets. Whether it was Edith’s out-of-wedlock child or helping Mary and Anna cart the body of a one-night stand out of Mary’s bedroom, Cora put aside the shock a proper lady might have felt and helped her daughters. Don’t we all wish for a mother who helps first and asks questions later?
You never know what someone else is going through
There were many episodes in which I just wanted to wring Mr. Barrow’s neck! He seemed to delight in spoiling surprises, spilling secrets, and stomping on souls. It seemed like he could always be counted on to gossip, plant seeds of doubt and discontent, and to find the black cloud under the silver lining.
During the first few seasons he seemed to have no heart. But slowly, over time, we began to catch glimpses of the man behind the sneer and we learned that it’s hard to judge a person based completely on their actions. Even a character as despicable as Mr. Barrow is not one-dimensional – and neither is anyone in real life either.
Mr. Barrow was proof that you never really know someone until you know what their demons are and what drives their behavior. I felt very sorry for him during the last couple of seasons and I was thrilled when he was finally made butler at Downton Abbey. He just proves that you never know who you’ll be able to depend on in a time of need because people are full of surprises.
Sisters (and all siblings) share a bond they may not appreciate till their parents get older
Mary and Edith fought worse than cats and dogs. I honestly thought that Mary had ripped it for good when she spilled the beans that almost cost Edith her marriage and I’m sure that many fans were just as angry at Mary as I was. However, Edith summed up their relationship nicely when she told Mary that what brought her back to Downton for Mary’s wedding was the realization that after their parents and Granny were gone, the two of them would be the only ones who would share the same memories.
I often heard my own mother talk about this same issue. Her only sibling was killed right after he graduated high school and after my grandparents died she would talk about how much she missed having someone who remembered the same things she did. She had no one left who remembered Christmases past with her own grandparents or vacations they took when she was a child. She told me that you don’t realize how important those things are until both of your parents are gone and you need someone who shares your history and your memories. Luckily for Mary, Edith was wise enough to realize this before she and Mary were old women.
There were just too many lessons for one post. Part 2 will post on April 18.