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“Why Do Fools Fall in Love” – the song asked those who do.

“What Kind of Fool Am I” – posed the question for one who did not.

What kind of fool am I who falls in love with the perfect family myth?

TV’s Donna Reed and Family

Baby Boomers like me grew up watching Leave it the Beaver, Father Knows Best and The Donna Reed Show where mothers did housework in dresses and pearls and fathers resolved problems in 30 minutes with commercials. Because our own families didn’t seem to measure up, foolish Baby Boomer moms like me felt less competent and guilty when we fell short. We tried harder to keep up appearances, and worked longer at our jobs and at home. That trap, my daughter Jessica informs me, continues to enjoy an unhealthy following among women today.

What it really takes to have a perfect family is complicit denial of truth. In his book A Field Guide for Immersion Writing, Robin Hemley writes, “The most persistent and sacred of lies is that any family is perfect, and families go to great lengths to preserve this myth.” (3) Hemley sites the 1980 film Ordinary People, which portrayed the devastating effects on a family hiding the truth. Pity in the face of tragedy or misfortune, maybe even a little blame and anger, but not confrontation. Never look behind the curtain or listen to the calm voices of truth.

Writers tend to do one of the following: see first then hear or hear first then see. As a teacher, I watched then listened; as a writer, I listen then look. I suspect that truth seekers listen to and look for the truth at the same time and ask all kinds of questions, including, “What kind of perfect fool am I who falls in love with myths?”

Happy April Fool’s Day.

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