“Uncle Lester, tell us a story,” demanded the children in an impolite aggressive manner one day during a freak Los Angeles rainstorm.
“Well, okay,” said Uncle Lester with a lopsided smirk, “but it will have to be a short one since I’m tired and my bad leg is acting up. Also my allergies have come back and my throat is getting sore.”
“If you won’t tell us a story,” threatened little Cole Curtis, “then we’ll put on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and you’ll be sorry!”
“No! Sofia the First,” shrieked baby sister Raegan dropping her melted candy bar as she took a roundhouse swing at her brother.
“Now, now. Let’s have no more of that,” cautioned Uncle Lester as he wiped chocolate off his new chinos. “I will tell you a story but if I hear any disruptions while it is going on, then it will be my duty to lock you in the upstairs closet with the broken circus toys and the smelly clothes,” he added gaily.
“We will be good,” cried little Cole Curtis as he watched his little sister to be sure she wasn’t touching his clothing with her chocolate fingers.
“In that case,” said Uncle Lester, “let’s give it a shot. Once upon a time, in a land far, far away there was a country of happy well-adjusted people who lived normal, good lives with their families and friends. Their towns and villages were charming thriving places with factories, farms, industry and local stores and shops of every kind up and down the main shopping streets.
“They had schools which taught the children not only the rudiments of good grammar, arithmetic, spelling, history, civics and sportsmanship, it also taught good behavior, proper manners, moral values and respect and love for family and country. The schools worked hand in glove with their parents and others in the community to guide the children in becoming well educated and well versed in knowing the difference between right and wrong.
“They were very much a virtuous people, a religious people who understood there was a spiritual being looking after them who was bigger and vastly more important than they were. A God who was on their side, who could lift up their spirits and help them choose the right path through His teachings and Commandments. They attended services on weekends, said grace at mealtime and prayed before going to sleep each night. They were taught to avoid sinful, self-indulgent activities and develop positive traits that would be good for them personally and for the people around them.
“They toiled at their jobs all week long, for they knew that hard work, besides providing sustenance for them and their family, also brought them pride, honor, a sense of accomplishment and the promise of a better life. The family unit was extremely important, with each member contributing to the whole in some way. Father, mother, children, grandparents, aunts and uncles all had unique gifts, wisdom and abilities that helped round out the family unit. All pitched in and all pulled their weight.
“In the evenings families would gather around the dining table to eat their meals together while they talked over the day’s events and what each did that day. After dinner they all helped clean up and then they might take a walk together or maybe gather in the living room for family music or games. Everyone participated and had a grand time.
“Oh my, it sounds so wonderful,” Cole Curtis chimed in happily, “where is this fun place and can we live there too?”
“Oh, oh. Remember what I said about interrupting my story and causing a rumpus?” Uncle Lester reminded the children. And then with a sly twinkle he added, “Well, never mind, but don’t let it happen again. “Now, in answer to your disruptive question, the land of which I spoke in the story is right here.” The children’s eyes grew as large as saucers as they listened. “That’s right, that place is your very own country.” Unable to contain himself, little Cole Curtis bravely inquired, “But the place in the story sounded so different from where we live. Why is that?”
“That is because it was a long, long time ago. It was back when schools still celebrated traditional family values and taught right from wrong. Back when society supported religion instead of invalidating it. Back when families ate meals together and did chores together and played together.
“That was a time when gambling and taking drugs was considered wrong. When waiting to get married before having children was the right thing to do. When living by the Ten Commandments was considered honorable, not judgmental. It was once upon a time in a land that is now no more. That’s why.”
Little Cole Curtis put his head down and thought for what seemed to be a long stretch of time. Then, slowly he looked over at his baby sister, who was staring at him. “Raegan, let’s go watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.”
“No! Sofia,” she said. And off they went, dancing over to the TV.
Greg Crosby is a writer and cartoonist and former executive at the Walt Disney Company.