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  Editor's Note
     
   

Why a "Family" issue? 

Claire O'Connell, age 7There are a number of answers. The first is that Holy Cross has a long tradition of calling itself a family. According to sociology Professor Ed Thompson, this is an appropriate use of the word. If one definition of family involves a sense of belonging and a shared set of goals and beliefs, then Holy Cross qualifies. And if you think of our tendency to intermarry, attend reunions and send our children to Alma Mater, the idea of the College as an ever-growing extended family feels correct. 

Out in the larger world, the notion of "family"-what it was, what it is, what it's becoming-is a much-discussed topic. On my desk is another Wall Street Journal article on family-friendly companies. It sits atop the latest Newsweek, which features Susan Faludi's recent book on men and their new role in society and in the life of the family. Were I to walk downstairs to the cafeteria right now and eavesdrop on the lunch table conversations of my colleagues, I'm fairly certain I'd hear a dozen different juggling scenarios; stories involving child care recommendations, elder-care dilemmas, parent-teacher conferences, soccer practices, and dance recitals. 

As the baby boomers find themselves in the thick of mid-life, the questions of what constitutes a family and of how to sustain a family, become preeminent in a world that appears more fragmented all the time. And as our culture careens toward the millennium, our answers to those questions become more complex. 

The articles in this issue are windows onto some families of the 1990s. We look at how one family was built through adoption and how another has coped and grown with the challenges of a special needs child. We visit with a stay-at-home dad and talk with our resident expert on the Family Medical Leave Act. And interwoven through all of these pieces, we've printed the drawings of some children of the Holy Cross family-representations of how kids view their own clans. 

After months of reading, editing and proofing these articles, in the end it is the children's drawings I keep coming back to. Clearly, these artists have little need of our definitions. They may or may not be budding Rembrandts, but they've all found their subject. With the minimalist's pencil sketch, the vibrant colors of neon markers, or the reliable Crayola, they've depicted the people who give them a sense of love, of belonging, of connection. 

Yes, today's families are stressed, rushed, pulled in a hundred different directions at once. (When I nagged our president-the first Holy Cross president to have children-for his "Road Signs" essay, he sent the piece to me with an attached note: Sorry this is late, I have family . Classic Vellaccio humor and, for many of us, easy to relate to.) But the shared joys and sorrows and needs that bind family members together have not been dismantled by the changes of the last half-century. 

There's a good chance you're reading this at the end of a long workday. Maybe you've already checked the homework, wrestled the kids into pajamas, read Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel for the hundredth time, and fetched that last glass of water before sleep. But before you make tomorrow's lunches or return the calls on the answering machine or tackle a load of overdue laundry, take a look at the children's drawings. It won't make tomorrow any smoother. But it might give you a smile before you turn in. 

 

 

Jack O'Connell

 

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