I was talking to my brother, Kevin, who now lives in San Diego a few weeks ago. He explained to me that he often talks of his Chicago raised childhood with Kate, his wife. He shares stories of our shared paper route and other funny stories from growing up. One day she said to him, “When I picture your guys’ childhood, I imagine it in sepia tone.”
I first laughed. Then I laughed some more. Then, I told everyone I knew about this, and they all agreed that this was hysterical. I was thinking though, why sepia?
I always knew I was an old soul. But I was thinking, am I really old?
My family is mostly Irish. We are natural born storytellers. We talk about our childhoods, the funny, the sad, the food, the details over and over again. This is just what we do. If it were an Olympic Sport we would win GOLD.
I remember as a kid begging my Mom and Dad to relive stories from their childhoods. Even now, when I am with family, I am often asking leading questions, such as, “Tell me about the time Dad dripped paint on Uncle Keith…” Some of my happiest memories are of sitting at the kitchen table hearing stories. Whether it be my parents, my siblings, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. Story telling is just what we do.
I must admit, when my parents would tell stories about growing up, I too pictured a sepia toned existence. I liked hearing about “the old neighborhood” (Roseland). My parents talked about walks to "the ave” and how my Grandpa was the first to have a car on the block. How all phones were party lines, and how everyone in their neighborhood knew everyone else and watched out for each other.
I cannot lie. When my Mom shows me old pictures of her prom dress and tells me it was the most gorgeous shade of gold, I think, 'yeah, I cannot see it.' To me it looks like watching Sabrina (the good one with Audrey Hepburn and William Holden). I just cannot see color in that world.
So, like my sister in law, Kate, I understand what it is like to picture things in sepia tone, but what is it about me and my siblings childhood that is sepia tone?
I mean, Kate grew up at the same time we did. We watched The Simpsons, had a Betacord, know all the lines to Caddyshack. I made mix tapes for my crush with songs like Whitney Houston's I Will Always Love You. I'm not really that old. Am I?
Then I realized, it really has nothing to do with when we grew up, but it has everything to do with how we grew up.
We were happy.
There is something nostalgic and almost Leave it to Beaver about our childhoods. I grew up in a small neighborhood in the far south suburbs, where we knew everyone. We played baseball in the field down the street. I taught myself to roller skate on our sidewalk. We had paper routes. There were full grown trees. There were neighborhood hangouts. My grandma taught me how to make an apple pie. I went to Catholic school. My older siblings and I would walk to Econo Drug store to buy candy. We cut our own lawn.
It was South of I-80. We loved it.
The stories we tell reflect a sepia tone happy family existence. And while everything wasn’t perfect all of the time for the most part we were happy.
So while I am a child of the 80’s/90’s, I understand how people would think I grew up in an episode of The Wonder Years.
I totally get it, and it is ok.
It just means we were happy.
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