The story that I chose to write about was “One Big Happy Family,” by Anndee Hochman. The story is about a young woman whose family life seemed to be the American dream, for those of us looking in from the outside. Her family owned a house in the city like most of us and a house on the beach. The house on the beach was unique with its architecture anomalies, which made the house more a mix and match of parts than like her normal home in the city. The whole family, including relatives from afar, would gather there during the summer to spend time with each other. When in actuality behind her family’s unity, was a demand for conformity to her family’s way of life and thinking. The author finally realized that in order for her to find happiness she had to look within herself and learn to listen to her feelings. Once she learns this lesson, she will be able to break the bounds of her family’s conformity and find the peace of mind that she has always longed for. Several of the stories throughout this chapter discuss different myths of “One Big Happy Family,” however it all seems to come back to the individual, and what they believe in.
Anndee’s house is unique with its red picket fence, a bathroom with two doors, bedrooms surrounded by paper thin walls, and no bedroom doors. Also a glass panel window that was built into a wall that separated the living room from the kitchen. An added feature left behind from years of construction and now disregarded but adding to the overall character of the house. These unique fixtures and anomalies were what made the trip to the house worth the voyage each year from the city. They were thrust into an alien environment completely different from what they were used to. The whole house was set up with unspoken rules that they all abided by without question. The rooms were assigned to a particular family member, group, or couples. The topics of conversation were predictable and planned to the point that they all knew what would be acceptable answers and replies to each topic they discussed.
After reaching adulthood Anndee began to develop her own opinions and thoughts that did not necessarily coincide with her family’s view. Anddee began to explore her own sexuality and discovered that she preferred the company of women to that of men. Upon this discovery she decided to inform her family of her on-going relationship with a woman friend. This was in direct opposition to what her family believed in. Her family had always been in the mind frame that husbands and wives produced grandchildren, and that in turn helped the family grow. They had never discussed or considered same- sex relationships having any place in their family. When she informed her mother of her sexual preference, her mother could not cope with the knowledge that her daughter was not going to conform to her views. Her mom wanted to know how could such a thing happen when Anddee had been such a good, cheerful, diligent, and brainy child that would not make this abnormal decision (Hochman). How could her mother even think that they were normal when they lived in the type of summer home that they had where nothing was ever normal? What her mother needed to grasp was that it was not her decision to make but Anddee’s. Her mother needed to realize that a love of a mother should be unconditional no matter what sexuality her child chooses.
After only spending a few painful days at their summer house, Anddee went home early with sadness and despair constantly on her mind. Anddee needed to find happiness within her, and to accomplish this she needed to listen to her inner thoughts and emotions. I believe that once she managed to do this she would be able to look upon the summer home with newfound memories. She may even realize that the summer home probably contributed to her becoming the person she was and find the peace of mind she was searching for. I hope that her family would eventually come around and they would all again be able to enjoy the summer home together.
A large percentage of society today has different ideas of what the “All American Family” is. Quite a few people base their family views on what they see on television shows. Many families tend to forget that the shows they see are not real life and we should not base our lives on them. I feel that if more families communicated more with each other, than maybe we’ll be able to grasp a little part of the “All American Family”. Unfortunately we teach our children to keep their feelings and emotions inside and we hide things that are embarrassing. This does not solve the problems that families face today. There are several ways to solve the myth of one big happy family, but I feel that as individuals we must first start with our own beliefs. I feel that if more families communicated more with each other, then maybe we would be able to understand the meaning of the “All American Family.”
Hochman, Anddee. “One Big Happy Family.” Everyday Acts and Small Subversions: Women Reinventing Family, Community, and Home 1994. Rereading America 47