I’m a fan of an old American TV series Judging Amy , I suppose it’s in the soapie category, charting the family life of the Grey family in Massachusetts. Late thirties, recently divorced Amy is a judge in the local Children’s Court; daughter Lauren is cute and curious; grandma Maxine is a magnificent feisty social worker with the Department of Children and Families, There are three other direct family members, but they’re not so central, nor so interesting, to the stories.
Thinking it over, I watch the series chiefly for the pleasure of seeing the redoubtable Maxine in action. Tyne Daly fills the role to perfection. She first hit the limelight many years ago in a TV cop show, Cagney and Lacey; languished in obscurity for some years, then made a comeback with the Judging Amy series and quite recently starred in the feature film about Maria Callas.
In her character as Maxine she is a commanding presence who stands no nonsense from anybody and robustly states her forthright views to children and adults alike. One scene shows a confrontation between Maxine and her daughter-in-law Gillian who – for once – turns on Maxine and gives her an earful, starting off with the declaration “I know you don’t like me …” Maxine replies to the tirade by saying “Yes, it’s true, often I don’t like you, but you’re family, and I love you.”
This statement was a lightbulb moment for me. How many of us, I wonder, have had similar thoughts, but have been too tactful/cowardly/nervous to voice them? Just because people enter our family – usually through marriage – does that mean that we will like them? Or have to like them? Or are able to like them? Perhaps, perhaps … And even if we don’t like them, are we capable of loving them, just because they’re now FAMILY? It’s a big ask. It’s a huge stretch.
I’m still thinking about this question. It remains unresolved.