I read somewhere the other day that while many products have taken a hard hit during these tough economic times, the sale of chocolate has remained strong. This didn’t surprise me at all. When difficult times hit, we turn to simple pleasures to make ourselves feel better. Chocolate. Ice cream. Comfort foods made the way Mom used to cook them.
Lots of people I know have “comfort books.” Well-loved stories in dog-eared covers that they read over and over when they need a little lift. My mother felt that way about several of her favorite books. Helen MacInnes’ FRIENDS AND LOVERS was one she treasured. Jeanne Ray’s JULIE AND ROMEO. Several early Nora Roberts romances. And a few special movies. Pollyanna. Anne of Green Gables. Several newer romantic comedies that she watched until she had every line memorized.
When my oldest daughter is sick or feeling particularly low, she reaches for Julie Garwood’s SAVING GRACE. She knows the book so well that she doesn’t even bother reading it now, just flips through the pages for her favorite scenes that make her smile. She says just holding that book makes her feel better. She has many favorite authors and beloved books, but that’s her “feel better, go-to” story. She has her own favorite films she watches when she just wants to be cheered up. She particularly enjoys those little pleasures when she’s wearing one of her favorite football team sweatshirts and a pair of warm, fuzzy socks.
When my second daughter gets a break from the stress of medical school, she crashes in soft lounge wear (it has to be soft, she’s into texture) with a stack of books — she enjoys manga — and DVDs (she loves The Fountain. And The Fugitive — she quotes the line about “thinking up a doughnut with sprinkles” all the time).
I have my own little pleasures. Out of my hundreds of “keeper” books, all of which I’ve enjoyed, there are a few I’ve read so many times I could almost quote them verbatim like the book-keepers in Ray Bradbury’s FAHRENHEIT 451. SWEET STARFIRE by Jayne Ann Krentz. MIDNIGHT RAINBOW by Linda Howard. WATCHERS by Dean Koontz. THESE OLD SHADES and DEVIL’S CUB by Georgette Heyer. Mary Stewart’s THIS ROUGH MAGIC. Oh, gosh, so many more.
And the movies — the ones I call “little films.” The ones I simply “need” to watch every once in a while, as if they were old friends that I very much want to revisit. American Dreamer with JoBeth Williams and Tom Conti. Heart and Souls, a sweet, funny movie with an amazing cast including Robert Downey, Jr. While You Were Sleeping. The Big Easy. Driving Miss Daisy. The Truman Show and The Majestic, both featuring a particularly restrained and touchingly emotive Jim Carrey. And every Christmas, I have to watch White Christmas. Always.
Why these particular books and movies? I don’t know. Most of them wouldn’t be considered great literature or film-making by academia (or Oprah). While I believe all of them have an uplifting message, few of them are considered especially “challenging” — in other words, they’re accessible, identifiable and entertaining. Feel-good. And while we all should be regularly challenged and enlightened and tested, sometimes we simply need to crawl into our fuzzy socks and seek comfort.
Books and movies. Always available. Reasonably priced — or even free for the borrowing, in your local libraries. Taken with a little chocolate, a fairly dependable remedy for an occasional blue mood. Everything in moderation, of course, but such nice treats when you need a pick-me-up.
What’s your comfort book?