Generally Speaking: Downton AbbeyBy MARILYN TINNIN COLUMNIST,
I confess to being a huge fan of the BBC Masterpiece series, Downton Abbey. I own the complete set of six seasons in DVD, and I have watched them through twice.
The recent debut of the full length feature film was something I had looked forward to for months. And, for me, it did not disappoint.
Some critics detest a story with such a fairytale ending. I have always been a complete push-over for exactly the happily ever after finale. All the broken hearts were healed, and even the less than savory characters had their redemptive moments.
Downton Abbey, from the very first season, piqued my interest in the sweeping Cultural Revolution that began around the turn of the century.
From the opening episode when the male heir of Lord Grantham’s lost his life in the sinking of the Titanic through the tragedy and upheaval of World War I, the rise of the middle class, and the decline of the aristocracy, I developed a real affection for the entire cast. It was easy to almost forget I was watching make believe.
The people may have been actors, but the backdrop of history was quite factual. Imagining the real impact of life altering events on the routine daily comings and goings of individuals with names and faces and families and hopes and dreams is what made Downton Abbey special to me.
The events I once studied in history class became more than words on the page of a book.
I was constantly aware of the speed with which the changing world was rearranging everything about the lives of these familiar characters. To say the changes were unsettling is to understate their reality.
No matter what the era, change has always been multi-layered! A psychologist could have a field day comparing the reactions and the coping skills among the upstairs residents and the downstairs servants. The younger characters welcomed the evolving society, and not because they were certain it was better. They just loved that it was all new and different. The older group was more circumspect and not because they were all stuffy and a bit snobby. They just knew from experience to be cautious.
And then, there is today. We are in the middle of another cataclysmic Cultural Revolution. On most days, it boggles my mind.
I am reminded of the verse in Ecclesiastes 1:9: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Change is a constant in our lives.
There have certainly been across-the-board, all-encompassing changes in my lifetime. From big ones to small ones, they are all related, and we are forced to adapt.
In my teenage years, my dad had a charge account at the Texaco station right down Highway 82 from his Central Buick Company. I just pulled right up; Mr. Woods appeared, expertly inserted that hose into the gas tank, and I signed a magic ticket that my daddy paid. It was unheard of in those days to pump your own gas.
But by the time my 80+ year old mother moved from Indianola to Jackson in 1989, self-serve had taken over the service station business in the capital city. That presented a significant challenge for her. It was not that she thought it beneath herself to pump her own gasoline, but the entire procedure was just hard for someone her age who had never done such a thing. She did not mention it even once to me, but I learned later that she had made a friend of the manager at a convenience store down the street from her apartment. He graciously pumped her gas for at least a year.
Even the little things seemed big in a place where nothing was familiar anymore. I found my mother’s coping skills to be impressive.
I have been thinking much about the concept of change and my Downton Abbey friends this week. Those thoughts lead me to thoughts of my mother and the inevitable changes that come with age and the world in general. I am reminded, as I so often am, that there are huge things that affect us that are beyond our control — things much bigger than learning to punch the right buttons on a fuel pump!
When we are young, we don’t think so much about ever growing old. And it catches most of us by surprise when we hit that mile marker that qualifies us for the Medicare card and the Social Security check. How did we get here so fast?
I have also realized this big bold truth in all caps. Those who look for their security in God, the Father, weather the winds of change with greater peace and stability than those who do not know Him.
The older I get, the more certain I become that God is God, the 23rd Psalm is great news, and on my final day here, I am leaving to dwell in the house of the Lord forever. And I won’t have to put up with life altering changes ever again once I get there! And I surely won’t have to pump my own gas. I don’t even think I will be needing a car.