FAMILIES
by Jack and Adelle Foley

a text for children & a song for
two voices & guitar 

We think sometimes that things will always stay the same. Sometimes we want them to change. Sometimes we want them to stay the same. But no matter what we want, things change.

The family is like that. It has changed too. In the old days, if someone did you an injury you would not go to the police, as you would today. You could go to your brother or perhaps your father or an influential relative. They would do what needed to be done and not the police. The police were weak, in a way. The family was strong. But the family was not just yourself and your mother and your father. The family was yourself and your mother and your father and your grandmothers and your grandfathers and all your relatives too.

With the discovery of the New World, the discovery of America, something very important happened to the family. Can you imagine what it was like to cross the ocean in those days? It was a crossing which was full of danger and peril and the fear of disease. It must have been like a journey through space to another planet. While it was true that many members of your family might journey with you, it was also true that many would stay behind, content to remain in the old world, where they had been for generations. The new world was full of interest and change and hope.

Now, there is something about America which it is always important to remember whenever you think about it, or whenever you want to know what it means to be an American. That is the size of America. America is, almost, as big a place as can be imagined. Its vast area extends from one ocean to another and the spaces in between have places in them so different from one another that you cannot help but think that the people living there must be different too. This size of America is a very important thing. For many years in America—though perhaps not today—it was always possible to find a new place, always possible to make a perilous journey through a wilderness in the hope of finding a new world within the new world.

And families did go away. It was no longer necessary to be protected by your father or your brother, or perhaps an influential uncle or aunt. The police were there to do that, and they were very strong in the new world. But what if a person disliked his family? Could he change that too? It was discovered in America, though it had been discovered in the old world too, that it was possible to CHANGE THE FAMILY, that the family could become something new and different from what it was. Nowadays we see families living with no relatives near-by, we see families which are a mother and child living together and a father living somewhere else, or a father and child living together and a mother living somewhere else. We see all these things because we live in America, in the new world, in a place in which we can always say that some people in our families, many years ago, decided that they would no longer live in the way that generations had lived before them, that they would take new hope upon themselves,

                      and journey forth.

 

we got the schoolhouse blues
the schoolhouse blues
tired of reading history
don’t care for geography
we’re getting oh so sick
of doin our arithmetic
that’s why
we gave the teacher the sack
and
we’re never gonna go back
if she doesn’t like it she can SIT ON A TACK
we got the
                    schoolhouse
                                             blues

—Irving Berlin (1922)