Why was this book written? First, these are letters to my mom, and those reasons are explained in the 'What' section of the book. Beyond that, I had three objectives in writing this book: 1. Entertain the reader. 2. See if I could present an "easily identifiable world. " 3. Deliver interesting information.
Why the letter format? The best reason: They started as letters, so keeping them letters makes sense. Second best reason: A collection of "letters to Mom" sets the parameters well. I limit myself to content that interests my mom, rather than trying to be all things to everyone. For instance, my mother enjoys looking at houses, so I make it a point to describe homes in the letters. Third best reason: A letter gets dashed off, so I can end it with a fast and friendly... Talk to you soon!
Of course, the most important event of the decade was the addition of Drew to the family.
We ignored many of the normal rules families followed. Mom happily gave up on the sit-down dinner each night, and neither parent tried to keep track of us. Instead, we kids made our own choices about what to do. While we made many atrocious decisions, none were fatal and we all learned from them – except Doug.
Example of our freedom: The brothers and I rode our bikes miles away from home at a time when neighbor kids weren’t allowed out of their yards.
Notably, there’s a precedent for all this. Dad grew up in a family of nine in a 250-person farm town called Brace in central Illinois. They had quite a rollicking household. Family members were always running everywhere, leading adventurous lives and coming back when they were hungry.
This type of household is more expected in a small town, because everyone knows each other, etc. But Dad introduced unregimented family behavior to 1970s metropolitan suburbia, and we were a fright in the subdivision. Though Mom didn’t grow up this way, she supported having a boisterous household, because she was a free spirit in her otherwise-organized family.
In the late ‘70s/early ‘80s we kids went to college. I graduated in 1985, and – strangely enough – we all settled back in the house. It might as well have been 1964 all over again. The truth is we enjoyed being together. We were comfortable with the coming-and-going thing, and the kitchen had food.
As for the house itself, we had a lot of cars out front – three on average. A county cop asked a neighborhood punk about the goings on in the subdivision. Cop: And why does that one house have all the derelict cars out front?
Maybe he thought it was a questionable boarding house, and he would’ve been right.
Finally, in late 1987 I was the first to leave home for good. I moved to the big city – Chicago. Dad understood my reasons better than anyone else, because he always loved the Windy City.
Al was the second to leave home. In 1990, he moved into an apartment complex 1/2 a mile away.
Then Doug left. In 1991, he moved to Chicago and became a prosecutor for the city. But Doug came back to the family house, chose a bedroom, and started a law partnership with Al. He married Peggy in 1995, and Doug moved out for good because she was against living in the basement.
Goodness, Dad left next. In late 1996, he moved into the outstanding veterans residence in Cape Girardeau, MO – two hours south of St. Louis. Dad had a 10-year series of strokes, and while he was still conversant and self-mobile, the VA folks could give him the help he needed.
In 1998, Sam moved into an apartment near the airport. He was always helping to keep the family house up (mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, etc.), but Mom was planning a move to a condo, so everything worked out.