The other morning woke me up early, lured me outside, and easily convinced me it was worth it.
I stepped out of bed and into the still-dark world quietly, pulled on sweatpants and a big sweater, and carefully opened the bedroom door so as not to disturb JoHn. Blaze didn’t even budge from her crate, the door always left open during the night. Belle-ah realized something was amiss and dutifully extracted herself from her ‘Belle-ah Burrito’ (the best way to describe it is a nighttime doggy swaddle (what? She likes to sleep that way!)), and followed me downstairs, where she went directly to her favorite spot on the sofa, curled up, at which point I made her into another Belle-ah Burrito.
No ShepHerd, no HoWnd at my side as I pittered and pattered in the grainy greys of pre-dawn.
A slow and easy stroll outside, and a few clicks of my camera’s shutter later, I was back inside pressing the start button on the coffee maker. Belle-ah had emerged from her burrito’d-ness and was back at my side, hoping ‘up early’ also meant ‘breakfast now’, which it did not. She sort of half snorted, half humphed when I wouldn’t even share my coffee.
Placing the steaming mug on my small desk, I lifted the screen of my laptop and visited a favorite gardening site, ingested a little news (moderation of such being key to my mental health), and then maneuvered over to Facebook, where I scrolled for stuff closer to home – family shenanigans, friends’ creative endeavors. I think I may be one of the only people on the planet who’s Facebook feed is not peppered with political stuff. I don’t want it there, and I am grateful I can make it so. Visiting is a relaxing amble, which is nice.
One of the many sponsored ads that appeared from the bottom of the page was of a tuxedo’d man dancing with a beautiful woman, on what appeared to be a stone terrace overlooking a late-day light. I stopped scrolling to investigate. What appeared to be an English countryside scene was exactly that. It was an ad for the movie, Downton Abbey.
I sat back in my chair, my little Dingle Belle* now curled up into a ball at my feet. Downton was one of the last series Granny and I watched together before she left us for the Great Beyond, nearly two years ago.
We’d watched it – the entire series, all six seasons – over the course of many a night and week for months. And it all came flooding back.
Granny in ‘her’ chair, across from mine…
Her humming to the theme music – and pretty much all the other music – completely out of tune and time…
Her out-loud guesses at plot twists – both exclamations and audible whispers (and everything in between) were nearly constant, along with expressions of glee when characters behaved badly…
“Oh I love that Mary!”
“Oh no, oh no, do you think Matthew is going to crash?!”
“Maggie Smith is PERFECT!”
“No way did Mr. Bates do it!”
I was aware of my quiet smile as the sun cleared the trees that morning.
And then I decided.
We were going.
I was taking Granny to Downton Abbey that very day, and I whispered it to her as I walked into the kitchen to warm up my coffee.
I looked up the times and decided that the 1:15 movie worked for us. She’d have to work around my schedule because, here on earth, I still have to work around… you know… time.
Hours later, after a walk with friends, I headed home to shower and get ready. I let JoHn and the dogs know (I’ve learned not to try to sneak out when it comes to the Blaze and the Belle) I was going to an afternoon movie. Everyone waved me off (well, Belle-ah sort of whined me off, but I think JoHn gave her some cheese to ease her worries), and I was on my way.
I pulled into the parking lot of the theatre with about fifteen minutes to spare, and went inside to grab my ticket (Granny was getting a huge discount because they couldn’t see her). I got enough popcorn for the both of us though.
That’s when I noticed.
Almost every single ‘couple’ buying tickets and/or snacks was made up of one woman accompanying another. Some of the women had walkers, or canes, or otherwise needed a little extra support.
It was clear that daughters and nieces and friends and neighbors were escorting women they cared about, and/or for… and/or loved… to see the movie.
Just like me.
I found a seat pretty much exactly where Granny and I would always find our seats: Left side of middle section, on the aisle, about 7 rows down. The napkins went in Granny’s right cupholder. The soda went in the one between us. I held the popcorn.
When the lights dimmed, and the curtain opened wider, we took in the previews (which Granny always loved). And then, the feature started. Just like the series, we arrived in the middle of a scene…
There was activity in town as a special letter arrived via the Royal Post, and we got to follow it all the way to Downton Abbey, where Thomas – the butler – takes it immediately to Lord Grantham who opens it and announces that, “The King and Queen are coming to Downton!”
And then the theme music swells as the camera pulls back to reveal a beautiful shot of the ‘house’ which is really Highclere Castle – the records of which date back to the year 749 and it is even the current house of a real Earl and… clearly, you don’t want to get me started.
The movie was all we’d hoped it would be.
Thomas was snippy…
Oh that Thomas. Will he ever change?
The Dowager Countess, Violet, and Isobel Crawley traded barb after barb…
Those two! They are hysTERical!
Mr. Bates showed up on screen…
Isn’t he HANDsome!
And there was the requisite formal event…
Oh, Lisa. LOOK at the costumes!
I would always laugh at the last one – well, all the ones where she pushed me to look at the screen I was already looking at. “I’m looking where you’re looking!” I’d laugh, then she’d start laughing and, I swear, the other day I could hear her chuckling beside me so loud that it annoyed the people behind us.
And then, totally unexpectedly, but as if on queue…
Grampa showed up.
It was just five seconds, and it may have been three, but he was there… by the grace of acting and writing and direction and a dash of magic.
On screen, a working man had realized he was important to a woman he was pretty sweet on. And, when she walked away, he did exactly what Grampa did in situations where he was told – or shown – he was important, and loved.
My breath caught in my chest as the man bowed his head as his face softly smiled. he exhaled softly out of his nose, and – this was always the case when Grampa did it – he shook his head, just barely. If you weren’t looking for it, you could miss it.
I was looking for it.
The actor could not have nailed Grampa’s expression or movement better. It was perfect.
It seems a little old fashioned to tuck some of the good stuff into our hearts, without the need to Tweet or Insta or Facebook or otherwise call attention to it, but that was the way Grampa rolled. It was practically his signature move.
The inward celebrations of a humble man…
Who led by example.
I actually put my hand on Granny’s armrest.
I can’t believe he came.
Soon enough, the last scene had passed and familiar music washed over the credits.
The houselights were up and I was smiling at the women-of-many-ages around me, who had taken each other to the movies, sharing oo’s and ah’s and laughter and tears in a darkened theatre on a random weekday afternoon.
Some folks consider these moments of flat out joy to be like capturing lightening in a bottle – you know, fleeting and not often repeatable stuff.
Little Women is coming out at Christmastime.
Granny and I will be there.
And I fully expect that, once again…
There will be magic.
Thanks for readin’.
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*Belle-ah, Belle, Belly-Blue, Dingle Belle… lots of names for our silly little hoWnd dawg :))