Gary Soto’s reflections on his childhood efforts of improving his working-class family are humorous and entertaining, yet show the flaws in the era of the family. Fueled by TV shows such as Leave it to Beaver, young Gary wanted to make his Mexican-American household more like the idealistic “nuclear families” that he seen on television. However, achieving that appealing lifestyle of the white middle-class families proved to be very difficult; especially for families like Soto’s, who didn’t fit that idealist image. His mother was a single parent who worked hard to put food on the table.
She did not have the time, energy, or money to engage in activities shown in the 1950’s sitcoms. The author points out the little differences between the “comfortable lives of white kids” who “hopped into bed with kisses and woke to glasses of fresh orange juice…” (29) and his own family. Instead of loud dinners consisting of “belly laughs” and “pointing fingers at one another” (29), Gary envied the proper ceremonial dinner where everyone dressed up and the table included steak, mashed potatoes, and starch napkins.
The interesting idea in the story is how the nine-year-old is drawn to such complex issues such as “the perfect family”. Whereas most kids his age could care less about social status, Gary was very aware of how his family was viewed. He seemed to be jealous of his neighbor David King, who was the only kid he knew who “resembled the middle class. ” (30) Reading the story, I expected a conversation between the two to take place where the author would see the whole picture. Gary would explain his desires to the Catholic of Armenian and French descent, who would tell him that his family was also different from the ones on television.
He would realize that “people didn’t watch those shows to see their own lives reflected back at them. They watched them to see how families were supposed to live. ” (Stephanie Coontz, 39) With so many people looking at the nuclear family as a model for their own homes, it hard to blame the little, naive, poor Fresno kid. The perfect family sitcoms and his goal to turn his own family into one were not realistic. I am sure the author eventually realizes this and goes on to appreciate his loving, working-class family.