I suppose, given the rhetoric of recent weeks, you might think this post is about the fiscal environment in America. It is not… yeah!
George was a banker by profession, which is ironic, given his last name is Banks. He was raised by parents of means in England during the late 1800’s/early 1900’s.
Sadly, in order for George’s parents to achieve their goal of making sure he lived at a higher standard of living than they had, work was the order of the day. George’s dad, of course, carried this load personally – those days pre-dated many vocational opportunities for women.
However, the responsibility of running a “proper home” fell on his mom, keeping her busy with societal obligations, volunteer roles, and an early-twentieth-century version of networking.
This left George at the mercy of nannies.
Nannies are a noble vocation. My mom was in the child-care industry most of her working years. I have a sister-in-law who is a career child-care-center operator. The daughter of one of my best friends is a nanny in the shadow of our nation’s capitol.
So, this is not a jab against nannies. But, in the same way that people who are lactose intolerant might second-think the decision to become a taste-tester for Ben and Jerry’s some people simply do not belong in the role of nanny.
One such person was Miss Andrew. She was George’s nanny through most of his childhood.
To say Miss Andrew was a little rough around the edges would be like saying Michael Jordan was an above average basketball player! She was a tyrant, plain and simple… known by George as ‘the holy terror’ for her conviction that the answer was always more discipline: ‘brimstone and treacle’ she called it… sulfur and molasses-type goo used to mask the taste and pungent odor of whatever necessary but distasteful pill must be swallowed!
Not surprisingly, George grew to be the kind of man who deeply appreciated the things of culture and society – a man who was devoted to his work; and proud of that devotion – a man who believed that a proper amount of precision and order was just as appropriate for the everyday world of running a household as it was for the accountant at a bank – an adult without the memory of a childhood.
Winifred Banks was a bit more complicated to assess. Her childhood was more middle class to be sure. Her dreams were limited by professions open to women in her day and influenced by the bright lights of a “way out” – she wanted to be on the stage… not the next one out of town, the performing one.
Winifred never made it to London’s West End. Somewhere along the way she met George and fell in love.
Like countless others before her, she gladly sacrificed her early dreams of fame and fortune in order to embrace a new dream: wife and mother.
Yet, lurking just beneath the surface of her day-in and day-out routine was the albatross of so many who dream of the theater – she wanted to please her audience.
With marriage came an audience of one, George, and she so wanted to make him happy.
This desire was her mission (healthy) and obsession (not-so-healthy).
- She had two children (Jane and Michael) and wanted them to be perfect. They were not.
- She sought causes to give herself to, but was never taken seriously by others who knew of her lower-station roots.
- She sat in the seat of the ‘mistress of the house,’ but could never quite exercise the kind of authority necessary to garner the full respect of her employees.
She had an audience of only one: George. But she never felt as though she earned the adulation and applause she sought from him.
I mentioned Jane and Michael. They were out of control – known to the local police by their frequent rants and faux run-away attempts.
George – drawing on his own experience – and Winifred – wanting to make George happy – had employed a revolving door of nannies, none of whom made it very long. The other household employees (a cook and odd-job man) loathed the departure of each nanny knowing the interim task would fall to them!
I must come to the kids’ defense for a moment, though. Yes, they were unruly. But who wouldn’t be? They lived in a home with two parents who, though they thought they were doing right by them, were all but ignoring them.
One parent was so busy trying to fit into the other one’s social circle that she didn’t seem to notice how alone the kids felt.
The other parent was so busy trying to make a living that he didn’t have time for life… he couldn’t even squeeze in a single moment to just go fly a kite!
DIAGNOSIS: This is a dysfunctional family.
I should be quick to say, I identify with dysfunctional families. I came out of one. Adele/I were proud of our own attempts to put the “fun” back into dysFUNctional, but it was dysfunctional nonetheless. Just ask our sons. I’m sure they’d be glad to tell you.
PRESCRIPTION: The Banks family is a family in need of a knight in shining armor… someone to liberate them from the mess that they call normal… a rescuer.
The ancient word for such a person is messiah. The word literally means someone anointed to liberate prisoners.
George, Winifred, Jane and Michael are not in a brick-and-mortar prison, but they are in a prison. They are trapped by their own misplaced values, their life-distractions, their utter failure to communicate.
Their story is an every-person story… though in a different century and a different city, it is so common.
Do you see you in any of it? I know I see me.
The rest of their story will have to wait until next week!