There are some occasions when the use of a comparative example may serve as a useful illustration in illustrating, or directing  focus on, an intended observation. Since we happen to be experienced in the raising and nurturing of gooseberries, we have selected that botanical example, certainly, a comprehensible, consistent and rational entity to contrast with the complex phenomenon called “family.”

Gooseberries, as a garden cultivar, is officially categorized as deciduous, potentially attaining a height of two to three feet and a spread of three feet.  Significantly, they produce berries, yellow, green, pink to purple, which depend singly, or in two’s or threes, from each small stem (unlike grapes which develop in bunches) and have thorns which would make rose plants blush with inadequacy. Thus, they are difficult to pick, but make delicious jam or pastry filling. To our point, they are observably easy to comprehend and are reliably predictable.

Despite all virulent contention, in truth, there are some features in common between gooseberries and the family. Structurally, the family usually presents itself in small clusters, communication is normally with the individual member and it is similarly perennial, with progeny closely resembling the predecessor.

But, major differences do exist between the two selected comparatives. This is especially evident in the exotic interactive behavior of the family. Seen externally, the family appears close-knit, cohesive, caring, interdependent and when threatened, fiercely loyal and protective. Medical emergencies, death of a family member or other occurrences of perceived major impact, are jointly and cooperatively responded to in unified and loyal fashion. Daily routines are experientially synchronized to avoid personal interference, a commonly selected newspaper is usually read, and there is, notably at least some agreement on political and social issues.

Pointedly, it is the inter-family dynamics which sets it apart and distinguishes it from the peacefully attached and supremely content gooseberry. There appears to be certain inconsistent and bizarre behavioral phenomena, which elude rational analysis and is markedly distinguishable from the placid and contented gooseberry.

Let us postulate a situation in which one thoughtlessly, or foolishly, makes an undesirable or inaccurate comment, or perhaps, commits a thoughtless act. If said or performed in the company of a friend, usually an apology or corrective action will suffice to end the matter; which, in friendship will probably be forgotten. Not so with family, for some reason. Instead there appears to be the unfortunate practice of the recounting of the faux-pas or mistaken action, which becomes, by virtue of repetition, a part of the fixed oral history of the family; it is not unusual that the recounted incident is gleefully exaggerated in some form of familial schadenfreude. Additionally, family members (usually influential elders) ascribe fixed stereotypes, accurate or unjust, to family personalities. By sheer contrast, gooseberries peaceably and amiably hang out with their fellows in a state of peaceful amiability.

Where love and intra-family loyalty are certainly implicit, if not an evident fact, why is there no forgiving and forgetting of a mistake or malaprop, as would be the predictable case with the more casual relationship of friend or acquaintance? There are no comprehensible or available answers; we can only maintain our eternal admiration and envy of the gooseberry.

We would advise any reader who presumes that this writing was done “with tongue in cheek”, that such assumption is not only erroneous but clearly, impossible, since our mouth is crammed full of delicious gooseberries.


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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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