Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

1943_Colored_Waiting_Room_SignHummmmm…unlike the posters so far, my experience of the 1940s and 50s was less idealized than the posts I’m reading. I grew up in rural Virginia. Most women in the families I knew did not work outside the home and few, if any, were educated beyond high school. Women were generally subservient to their husbands and so far as I know, none had access to birth control. Families were larger; homes were smaller. Entertainment was much more limited…outside play and inside board games. Some husbands were responsible parents and partners. Some were not. Some mothers were careful and nurturing. Some were not. There were a few divorces, but unhappy women mostly stayed in miserable marriages because there were few options. Some families were Catholic, some were Protestant, some were Jewish, and some were agnostic or even atheist — although the latter tended to keep quiet about it. Children tended to reflect the beliefs they were born into. A few, like me, never believed anything in particular. Some children were spanked or beaten and some were not. Some children got into trouble and some did not. A few girls got pregnant in high school…they were either forced into marriage or rushed off to a “home” to give birth and place the child into adoption. Abortion was known, but a frightening prospect if you were poor. Homosexuality certainly existed, but was whispered about and the people who did not “fit in” were ostracized and treated with contempt. I knew of both boys and girls who were sexually abused by family members, older adults, or older peers, but talking about it to adults was strictly taboo. Being an “old maid” was frowned upon and being a bachelor beyond a certain age, say late twenties, was suspect. Family meals were just that…meals. In some of the homes I visited, they were pleasant experiences…in others, they were not. In my peer group, family life was not the focus of our lives. We were not all that interested in what our parents were trying to teach us…if they were trying to teach us. We were interested in each other, in school, and the future. If we talked about parents at all, it was to complain. Oh…and we lived segregated lives. Black children went to separate, but most assuredly not equal, schools. Water fountains were segregated, as were restrooms, restaurants, hotels, and movie theaters. Black men were lynched in my county. Black people did not vote. White children and black children never crossed paths.

Social norms in western cultures have changed a bit in the last 50 plus years. In the US and in Europe we are more open about what goes on in families and we are more accepting of human diversity, although we’ve got a very long way to go. People are people…we are now as we were then…what has changed is our willingness to recognize the truth of human experience. That is not comfortable for everyone…it is certainly of greater comfort to me.

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GraceSome might say that the erosion of good strong family values of years past is responsible for the ills of today. Some are not standing up for any values at all. I was brought up in a day that chose to stand with our Christian heritage. Even though my mom and dad didn’t practice all the principles of godly parents they made sure all four of us did. We knew the difference between what to do with our opinions and what it meant to respect authority. Our family meals were not cafe style or buffet style. We all helped set the table ,clear the table etc. We all went to church it wasn’t a choice of maybe yes, maybe no. We were taught to respect our teachers; if we complained we better have a very good reason.

Some might say I was abused as a child. Well I didn’t get in trouble in school or with the law. The worse thing that might happen in school was getting in trouble for chewing gum. Not the same in today’s society, I would choose my family life any day.

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Kids PlayingI miss the kids at school I retired from my position as media specialist in an elementary school, and while I love being retired, I do miss the kids. Over 19 years, I watched the changes in families. We had some kids with same sex parents, one parent families, parents who were older than when I started having kids. Some of my friends’ kids have decided not to have children. Others don’t have them but would like them. I’m not sure I have a real position about the choices people make. Society and the world has changed so much. What I do have a position on is HOW people parent. I would love to see more one on one without smothering. I’d like to see parents encouraging kids to become responsible and caring and tolerant towards everyone. And I’d like to see kids just playing. Going outside with their friends for a game of something. Not sitting in front of a screen, or even being over-programmed with group activities.

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mexicoThis is how my new husband describes our courtship: a progressive realization that it was a good idea to grow old with someone you love. I prepared the path to that realization with good food, much laughter, visits to galleries, and a month in San Miquel, Mexico where he welded and I sculpted at the Institudo D’Allende.

We were not strangers having met over the years on occasions that brought us together with our respective spouses through a mutual friend. He was a retired professor of organic chemistry looking forward to a future of exploring interesting possibilities such as art, and sharing them with his wife of many years. He was widowed suddenly, months after I was. I waited a respectable time to connect. I called with a conversation that began “I hear you’re doing art” and “I’d like to see your work.” He said he wasn’t sure how that could happen and obviously missed the point. He was on his way to months of sputtering (the opposite of progressing). I waited for him to catch up. He was worth it. (more…)

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