This is a portrait, in four slices, of an American family. Not a typical American family, mind you. These are upper middle class, New York liberals: Baby Boomers dealing with life, family, death, and politics sixty years after the Boom.
As AMC's Mad Men effectively dramatizes (in its subversion of 1950s norms), the conservative ideal of "the American Family" is, and has been, an oppressive, non-functional fantasy. Is this cause for alarm, as Republicans and the religious right suggest?
The American family's structure is no longer a perfect slice of apple pie. We've got nests that are no longer empty as jobless millennials move back in with mom and dad and redefine our latest obsession with what it means to be "occupied."
My husband works two weeks per month in Eastern Europe. When I mention this to people, they give me the sad-eyed look. "It's fine," I say, and, really, it used to be more than fine: I was actually enjoying myself the first year.
The major activity of the American Family appears to be "busyness." We do things. We don't just live in a family, we produce a family! We perform a family. Families simply must be -- or appear to be -- busy all the time.