Okay, why write such a hardboiled post concerning family? Tolstoy said it best, in Anna Karenina: "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
Still, this insightful and broadly applied commentary on family is overly simplistic. There are happy moments for unhappy families, but they don't last; instead, they're the past, hopefully the future, and they go almost unnoticed in the present, because they're all but drowned out by the loneliness of the past, the fear of the future.
Here's an example: Three generations back in an imagined family, a great-grandfather is an abusive drunk. As a result, the children join the American Temperance Union, and no one drinks from that moment forward. But the behavior handed down from great-grandpa at the business end of a fist, the sting of a belt, or simply the bite of words, persists in the hands of grandparents and parents. Or the children of succeeding generations are pummeled by religious threats of eternal damnation.
What's a family to do?
What can they do?
This is the dilemma Tolstoy intended, I think. That is, there are no common answers; each person in each family has to work such things out for themselves, probably alone.
Does this sound bleak?
I don't mean it to.
But do you begin to see how many stories there are here? How many possibilities are wrapped up in Tolstoy's fourteen-word summation of family reality?
Can you write some – from imagination, or experience – without victimizing? Without writing off hope and happiness?