What is family? I think the definition is either a result of your personal experience, or your personal aspiration. As a result, there might logically be nearly infinite possible attempts at a description. But the funny thing is, there are really only two answers to the question. Let me explain…
In the last several months, I’ve had numerous discussions with people who are book subjects in an upcoming book that I’m writing that deals with the emotional aspects related to cancer. Many of these discussions have begun around the question, “Tell me about growing up in your family –– what was your childhood was like?”
The answers were either only as follows:
- “I had a ‘Leave It to Beaver’ childhood,” or,
- “Oh my God, where do I start?”
I know twenty people is not a fair sampling of the world around us, but it’s hilarious how many people referenced the “Leave It to Beaver” descriptor to try and succinctly relay that their childhood was non-traumatic, happy, ordinary, and comforting. Nearly everybody that had positive remembrances of their family kept the narrative very simple and analogous to that innocent and wholesome time that was forever captured in the Cleaver family on the black and white television. When it came to the descriptions around unhappy, non-stereotypical, troubled, afflictive families, though, I was able to take pages and pages of notes.
I knew what was coming when the books subjects answered the question: happy, one line on the sheet –– “Leave It to Beaver”, not so happy, get the pencil sharpener ready.
I found both categories’ ensuing explanations fascinating, one for its elegant simplicity, the other for it’s complex and moving elucidation. The truth is, “family” is never really that easy or difficult to explain, for family is more of an experience than a characterization, isn’t it? And everybody’s experiences are exclusively theirs.
With that in mind, here are a few movie quotes on the topic:
“You know, my mother never had time for me. When you’re the middle child in a family of five million, you don’t get any attention.” Woody Allen in Antz
“A man that doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.” Marlon Brando in The Godfather
“There’s no place like home.” Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz
And one classic from the TV show…
“Wally, if your dumb brother tags along, I’m gonna –– oh, good afternoon, Mrs. Cleaver. I was just telling Wallace how pleasant it would be for Theodore to accompany us to the movies.” Ken Osmond in Leave It to Beaver