The kids are all right

We’re at the end of a long, cold Chicago winter. (Finally!)

Over the last few weeks I’ve been using my time wisely, catching up on a stack of unread books gathering dust on my nightstand.

My favorite so far? It’s a book called The Kids are All Right. It’s the story of the Welch family, a family that was both extraordinary (Mom was an actress on several soap operas, and Dad may or may not have been in the CIA) and yet completely ordinary.

For any of us who came of age in the 70s and 80s, it’s a familiar story, and one that has a few recognizable threads from other writers and humorists that mine family life for material (like David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs, to name two).

I don’t want to spoil the story here, because I really want to encourage everyone to buy this book and read it. But here’s what has drawn me to the book and what has kept it in my head weeks after I’ve finished it: it tells the story from multiple viewpoints.

Sisters Diana Welch and Liz Welch, both writers, are the principal authors of the book, but it’s also the story of their other siblings, Dan and Amanda.

This really reverberates for me, because I’m also one of four children. I’m the youngest, with my closest sibling being five years older. My oldest sibling? She was 12 years older than me.

To put that into context? She graduated from high school in June 1975….three months before I entered first grade. That’s not just a big difference in calendar years. That’s a huge generational difference that really informed how we both see the world.

That oldest sibling and I get along really well. But we have incredibly different viewpoints and memories, sometimes of the same events! My time with our parents came much later and at a time where I was the only kid in the house. She was the first kid that had to share with every new sibling and probably had to deal with my parents’ trial and error in child rearing.

Our family coped with things that many families in middle America coped with: physical illness, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and conflicts in relationships. But it still amazes me, sometimes, how different my experience and my memories are from my siblings.

I loved The Kids are All Right because it lets each sibling tell their story and honors and validates each story (a twist on the title of the book and perhaps its true statement: the kids are all right).  There’s a fantastic line on the Web page that they’ve set up for the book that says, “The past belongs to everyone who was there.”

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