On this lovely MLK Jr. day, my family came to visit me in Brooklyn. This was a big deal; my parents and sisters have been here before, but the ladies of the house were joined by my aunts, my cousin, and my grandmother. My grandmother hasn’t been to Brooklyn in approximately forever. After being raised in Queens and working in Manhattan, she now avoids the five boroughs at all costs. It meant a lot to me that she was willing to come see my apartment and my neighborhood for the first time in the three years I’ve been here.
Since I’ve been watching a lot of Downton Abbey as of late, I decided to treat this visit as if I was living at Downton and as if my grandmother was Dame Maggie Smith, aka Violet, aka the Dowager Countess of Grantham. In case you’d like to do this as well, here’s the broke/lazy girl’s* guide to pretending you’re welcoming a Dowager Countess to your estate:
- Ask your mother to bring an amazing coffee cake from a bakery near your hometown, so that you only have to make one dessert. Pretend you asked Mrs. Patmore to do this.
- Make that one dessert from a roll of pre-made cookie dough that only requires you to spoon it onto a cookie sheet and shove it in the oven. Right now, you are Daisy.
- Set out an arrangement of teas, k-cups, and mismatched paper plates and napkins from a previous party, to show that you’ve gone all out. At this point, you’re probably Carson or Mrs. Hughes.
- Dress in your best clothes, or an outfit that you were told looked very nice when you wore it two weeks ago. For a touch of elegance, wear gold pumps. You are your own lady’s maid.
- When your family arrives, go outside to greet them, even if it’s cold. Chances are the Dowager Countess may need assistance climbing the stairs in your walk-up building, and she shouldn’t need to wait outside while your mother/chauffeur finds a spot in which to parallel park. For this, you are both Lord and Lady Grantham, so hold your head high and say things like “Welcome, I’m so happy to see you”.
- Give a grand tour of your estate. Show off the walk-in closet and bathroom to make it seem like you have more rooms than you do. Ideally your valet will grab the coats, but guess what, that’s you too, so throw them all on your bed.
- Have your kitchen staff prepare an excellent meal, which in reality means you should ask the Dowager Countess what she’d like for lunch and then go to the closest restaurant that serves that cuisine.
- Ask your beau for assistance upon return to the estate in preparing the coffee and tea, telling him that his dinner coattails will not be necessary. Thank beau profusely, neglect to mention that he’s actually a footman at this particular moment.
- Serve cake, cookies and beverages, thanking the Dowager Countess and your other guests multiple times for visiting and express your hopes that they are enjoying the day. Point out the original wood flooring and crown moulding around the living room (it helps, for this step, if you live in an apartment that’s been around for 100 years like I do. It actually has a parlor off the living room that is currently a bedroom, otherwise could ask the ladies if they’d like tea in the sitting room).
- Put your valet hat back on and fetch the coats, then send them on their way. You may or may not end this step by returning to the servant’s quarters and taking a quick nip from a flask.
So there you have it. You too, with the proper kitchen and house servants, can treat your grandmother like the Dowager Countess of Grantham. If you’re wondering, she quite enjoyed her visit.