Madonna said it in 1984. "We are living in a material world." That's all well and good, but Midge forgot to mention that we are also living in a rushed, rude and often ugly one. I'm not talking about the big problems. I'm talking about the genteel touches — or really, the lack thereof. To quote another famous M (one Ms. Stewart) "Manners matter." If Martha didn't actually say it, she's certainly thought about it. A lot.
Where are all the day-to-day niceties we left behind? I, for one, do my best to maintain them.
For example, this week I have reinstated the formal breakfast tray. Our family doesn't eat breakfast together unless we're on vacation. (Wouldn't that be nice? The eating breakfast together part, not the vacation part. Oh all right, the vacation part too.) My teenage daughter is the first to leave in the morning, while I eat after my walk. I'm not sure when my husband eats. At any rate, while she's putting the finishing touches on her ensemble upstairs, I typically cut her some fruit and prepare some starchy thing (with chocolate in it more often than not: croissant, muffin, waffles, you get the picture). A hot pink "Teen Advantage Vitamin" and a glass of water and ... voila! ... zee breakfast, shee ees served.
This week, I took a moment and went out to our little garden. I snipped some begonias, popped them in a crystal bud vase (wedding present), pulled out a tray, arranged the aforementioned gourmet repast and ... volia! ... breakfast was served with ever so much more class.
My daughter eyed me with a mixture of puzzlement and suspicion.
"It's nice," I told her. "It's like Downton Abbey."
Her expression remained the same but she cocked her head a bit which added to the effect.
"You know," I continued. "Like that time when Lady Mary was getting ready for school and Carson brought her a tray with a chocolate chip cookie dough Pop Tart and some fresh flowers, so she wouldn't have to get off her iPhone and go to the table?"
I was once again reminded that my daughter does not appreciate my considerable wit. Nevertheless, she has had flowers with her breakfast every day since.
This longing for a more refined life is also the reason I insist on beds that are made. This infuriates my daughter to no end. She finds it illogical, as well as "so-o-o annoying!" To me, it's a civilized ritual that marks an evening over, a new day begun. It instills the room with a sense of order and serenity. It has nothing whatsoever to do with my compulsive neatness.
Okay, so it does. Sue me.
"You can do whatever you want when you live on your own," I recite like a broken cliché machine, "In this house, we make the beds."
I did give her a pass for most of the summer. But, back to school means back to bed-making. This, despite having learned from our schooner captain that making a still-warm bed is like sending a backstage all-access pass, V.I.P. open house invitation to dust mites. Eeeeeeew.
I know I can't really roll back the calendar to a more elegant age. And I do live in the present as evidenced by my posts about Miley Cyrus and twerking (which achieved the highest hit rates I've ever had — how sad is that?). But, whether it's flowers on the breakfast tray or smooth sheets and throw pillows, I believe we can make an effort.
What else are we to do in today's graceless world?
Keep calm and ring Carson for tea.