Amanda has that picture in one of many family albums, glued beneath a thin plastic sheet alongside other images, proof of where we come from, of who we were before everything changed: our parents at fox hunts, regal in their red coats and top hats; childhood birthday parties with frosted cakes, lit candles, and paper hats; horse shows with ribbons and trophies; beach picnics and Thanksgiving dinners. Amanda also has several grainy 16- millimeter home movies that Mom and Dad made, the sounds of which have gone wobbly and deep.
One year, as a Christmas present, Dan edited the films together and layered sad- but- funny songs like Motley Crue's "Home Sweet Home" and Elvis's "Don't Cry Daddy" on top of their slow, distorted narration. After five long years apart, it was the eighth Christmas we had spent together as a family; our separation and subsequent reunion had reinforced the importance of childhood rituals. That Christmas Eve was spent the same as the ones before it: We prepared a dinner of Yorkshire pudding and roast beef, hung the four patchwork stockings that our mother had made, our names hand- stitched in white rickrack on each cuff. We dressed the tree with old family ornaments and placed the gold papier- mâché crèche at its base. Then, in keeping with another Welch tradition, we each opened one small present. Amanda opened one from Dan— our new home movie.
On that Christmas Eve in 1998, we watched our father hold Amanda up in the window of their apartment in New York City so she could see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade drift down Central Park West, and we watched him hold her at her christening at St. Patrick's Cathedral, and as she sat in his lap on her first birthday and tried to eat her card. We watched our mother, puffy from giving birth, wave to the camera and smile, holding a fat newborn Liz in her arms. We watched a determined Liz tromp up a grassy hill in tights and fancy shoes, struggling to hold an Easter basket nearly as big as she was. We watched Amanda wave at the camera and pat Dan's back as he lay belly- down in his bassinet, her mouth forming the words "Hi, Mom." We watched Liz help Dan take off his tiny terrycloth robe at the beach in Cape Cod before she left him sitting in the sand and ran to catch up with Amanda in the waves. We watched the three of them splash around in our pool, held up either by Styrofoam floaties or by Mom in a bikini and a big sunhat. It wasn't until the tape finished that we realized Diana wasn't in any of those warm, sun- splattered scenes that our parents recorded and Amanda saved and Dan edited and scored. It made sense. Those home movies recorded the idyllic times, and Diana doesn't remember much of those.
part one spring 1982 – summer 1983
LIZ I wanted to be an actress just like Mom. In the fall of 1981, I came close to getting the part of Jon Voight's daughter in the movie Table for Five, but then Ricky Schroeder was cast as the son. We were both blond, and the director wanted the daughter to be a brunette, so I was out. At least, that's how Mom explained it to me.