I’m Jessica Harper. Long before I was a movie actress I was growing up in a six-kid household in Winnetka, Illinois…
It was Eisenhower’s postwar America. On the surface, it seemed like an idyllic time and place. But sometimes, in my town and in my own home, that surface would crack, revealing darkness below…
Every family has secrets.
Welcome to Winnetka.
Bonus Story: LOVE & CRIME
“I got interested in boys then. Not so much for romance as for a Billy surrogate, while he was out raising hell…"
Episode 4: WINNETKA
In ‘56, we settle in Winnetka. When, in July, Mom gives birth to twin baby boys, Dad’s temper rises like the temperature does. But he keeps us in his thrall with signs of love.
Bonus Story: HOUSEWORK
“The trouble with being a stay-at-home mom wasn’t that the work was so hard but that it was so unvalued.”
Episode 3: WISHING
My twin brother Billy and I are close pals. In spite of our fear of our angry father, we each wish he would shine his love light on us. The arrival of an adorable baby sister does not help our cause.
Episode 2: MOM & DAD
A Marine (Dad) and a nightclub singer (Mom) are married in 1946. By 1950 they live in a Chicago suburb with three babies. Dad starts his career in advertising, while my mother struggles with being a stay-at-home mom. Dad shows an unexpected angry side, which Mom attributes to PTSD.
Bonus story: THE JOKE
“Memory is tricky. It can morph over time, and events get re-imagined.”
Episode 1: INTRODUCTION
My family and I attend Dad’s funeral in ’13. As I listen to my siblings’ eulogies that extol his virtues, I note how our memories of childhood differ. But what we’ll all discover some days later is an awful piece of our history that none of us can change, misremember, or deny.