Since family is so important to me, I was just thinking about what family life was like when I was growing up in the 1950’s. My book, The Butternut Tree, is fiction based on a true story of an unspeakable crime and is set in my hometown during the 1940’s and 1950’s. Family life in Avon, Ohio, is described in poignant and humorous detail. Writing about life in that era and going to St. Mary’s Catholic school prompted me to begin a Children’s Series. “Maureen and Billy, The Bad Kids” is the first book of many more to come. My son, Daniel Jon Kostalnick, MD, is a psychiatrist and wrote a talking points guide to be used by parents and teachers in small study groups. I think the book is also very entertaining for adults who attended Catholic school. I’m not sure how well the book will do in Catholic schools because in the story, little Maureen gets smacked in the mouth by the nun for saying a bad word. That was the way it was during that time. (I guess that I also should not have written that the nuns’ breath smelled like “skunk farts” either—none of the above may allow the children’s book to ever make it into the Catholic literature!)
“Father Knows Best” was one of my favorite T.V. programs. It depicted the perfect family with the dad going to work everyday, dressed in a suit. The mother stayed home with the children and always wore earrings and a house dress, even when she was vacuuming. It was the perfect family—and the family I wanted.
Additionally, during that time, there were rules a person had to uphold: divorce was a sin. Anyone who found themselves in that circumstance was discriminated against by the town and the church. My family and I fell into that category, through no fault of the children. When nosy neighbors would ask me where my father was, I (with an element of righteous indignation) told them he “got shot in the war” rather than admit he had left us.
Family life is so different now. There are many variations of families. And, what I am learning in this evolution of my understanding what “family” means, is that it comes down to people loving and supporting each other.