|Ethel Parks, housemaid|
It's a rather moving plot like for first mothers like us, because Ethel is cast out of the house where she works, no small thing in Edwardian times. The officer is a asshole, and won't have anything to do with her, or the baby. No DNA testing, no way to prove he is the father. He's killed in the war, and Ethel is shown living in dire poverty, trying to raise her son, Charley, taking in laundry for a few pennies. The head housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes--at first highly critical--sees the need after the child is born and brings Ethel food. She also arranges a meeting
between Ethel, carrying Charley, and his grandparents when they come to Downton to see where their son stayed. The grandfather is an insufferable jerk, just like his son. His son wouldn't have left he mother in dire need--it can't be true--and they walk out.
Then maybe she can, as his maid. The grandfather says he will make up a story about their son's quick marriage to someone who died, and Charley will not be told the truth of who she is for many years. Not until he's old enough to reject her, and treat her like a wretch, I thought to myself, having read the memoirs of women brought up in better circumstances than their biological birth mothers would have been able to do. He won't learn the truth until he is old enough to be repulsed by the true story of his birth. The grandfather refers to Ethel a couple of times as a "drudge."
The first time I watched this, I waited, thinking OMG she's going to turn over her son...but she does not. She thinks about their offer and returns to tell Mrs. Hughes to tell them that she is keeping her son, and what they cannot offer him is "a mother's love." She will be poor, but she will keep her son.
Well, I cheered, and I felt good again last night when she walked off with Charley.
This morning I awoke with a dry sobbing. I was having a dream in which I was a guest at a fancy resort, and the story coming up from the staff was that one of the maids had a child and was being pressured to give him or her up. The story had a lot of sidepaths, but they were all around my growing fear that she would give up her child, and I was running around the resort quietly trying to tell everybody what a huge impact this would have not only on her, but the rest of her family, and nothing would ever be the same and it would be much more damaging than they could imagine. I ended up at a counter trying to buy some socks but broke down sobbing as I was trying to explain why this maid should not give up her son.
That is how I woke up this morning. Sobbing without tears. And I thought: this is what adoption does to you, 46 years later, you wake up before seven sobbing after watching a television series that deals with the possibility of giving up a child. This is what they do not tell you, what they cannot tell you, about adoption on all those fancy web sights where they show nice pictures of sweet couples who go hiking, have a nice home, and can provide so much more than you, poor drudge, cannot. They cannot tell you that nearly a half century later you will wake up in the morning sobbing at the thought of watching someone move forward with "an adoption plan."
They cannot tell you this because if they did, no one would give up her baby. --lorraine
I didn't mean to post anything until after Christmas, but I felt if I didn't get this down immediately, the dream and the feeling would leave me. FMF's Christmas thoughts are in the previous post: