The Census Sensibility Bit

My house and household (+ visiting Grandma) – hm, 1965?

“Where were you in ‘62?”

That’s what movie posters for the 1973 classic American Graffiti asked back in the day. Easy answer for me: wasn’t around yet, but love the film!

Here we are in 2020 (because we have to be…) and, as our Constitution requires every ten years, we in the US are getting that query from the Census Bureau. After responding with my current stats, I got curious to see if I could figure out where I was and what I was doing for each of the past Census years in which I’ve been counted!

Because this is the sort of thing I presently do for fun…

Simple questions – and I thought it would be simple for me to call the answers to mind. But it turned out to be quite the little challenge! (For an idea of how my brain works, find the Father Ted tv show clip “Sister Assumpta!!” I’ll wait.) 

Much like the trunk of my car, some recollections have become jumbled and hard to sort through anymore. Thankfully though, my habit of keeping a ridiculous clutter of old papers finally paid off! Yup – by scouring documents, calendars and journals for clues, I was able to figure my whereabouts and doings at the start of each decade!

Even so, they didn’t tell my whole story.

From my photo calendar gift phase!

My first appearance in a Census was back in 1970. Also known as:

Fifty.

Flippin’.

Years ago.

(Hard to own to that. Not gonna lie…)

I was part of a Bay Area household that was Dad, Mummy, my two older brothers and me. No occupation yet – just going to school. And it required math to figure out the actual grade (always dicey for me…) but I’m pretty sure in the fall of 1970, I’d have been sitting in Miss Johnson’s first grade class – not concentrating on math but marking the time until recess on one of those institutional clocks where the hand clicked agonizingly backward before moving ahead.

“Occupation – child.”

Forty years ago in 1980 (nope – not getting easier), I might well have been doing the same thing – only as a high school junior! My big brothers were establishing their own households by then while I was living in the same home with m’ dear Mum and Dad and working summers at a day camp. (With movie ticket prices already approaching $4, I must have known I’d need plenty of cash to hit Raiders of the Lost Ark the following summer – many, many times!)

1990 would show me still in the same house! What it wouldn’t show is that during the ‘80’s, I’d gone away to college – well, 3 1/2 miles away to Berkeley – where I lived two years in the dorms and two off campus.

“Number in household – around 200!”

It also doesn’t show that at the beginning of Census Year 1990, I was on my second grown-up job and living in an apartment with two friends. Nope – just shows that by the fall, while still working full-time, I was back living full-time at home and slumbering in the bedroom of my childhood. Some of the big dreams I had there might have been starting to fade – but the pink walls and purple trim were as vivid as ever!

On to the Millennium! The year 2000 was another example of my starting and ending the year in different places. I was in LA by then, working as a tv network paralegal (where, despite the worry, our computers  didn’t melt as a result of the Y2K bug). I thought I was living in the Santa Monica condo I rented for several years with two friends, but after consulting an old rental application, this is what I found –

I was in Santa Monica the year before until one of the two friends moved out because she wanted to live where they’d allow her to have a dog. So another friend moved in but then the condo owner decided to sell. (Riveting, right?) Which meant at the beginning of 2000, I was actually living with these two friends in another three bedroom.  Then one friend moved back east, so I got another apartment with the remaining friend – which is where I was at the end of 2000, and where I’d stay until the friend moved to another country.

All of which led up to my working as a paralegal at the same place and living on my own during the next Census go-round in 2010. And I should clarify that I wasn’t on my own, you know, because I’d run out of friends or anything. I mean, yes I was technically traded in for a dog at one point there – but I’m choosing not to read a lot into that.

Might as well set the Census record straight too as to why I didn’t say I was still at the same job. That’s because over a period of years, the company had laid me off twice after corporate mergers, so 2000 was actually my second “tour of duty” there and 2010 my third – with lots of temporary jobs and unemployment angst in between. Which means I was either so good at my job that I kept getting rehired – or that (as I’ve probably said before) I seriously could not take a hint.

This is the thing! Beyond the basic stats for these years, there’s a lot of backstory that I can’t help filling in!

Like 1990 (forgive me but I’m on a roll). When I left my first grown-up job two years before, I remember trying on the idea of really changing things up, following my heart and moving south to pursue a more creative career. Except, well – I didn’t. There’s no Census check box to identify crossroads – or roads not taken at the time – but I know that was one.

Finally, (downer alert…), at this exact time ten years ago, although the Census places me “still” in my paralegal’s office and living in my own apartment, neither stat is entirely true. I was in the midst of spending several months in Oregon at my ailing dad’s bedside where I was when he passed away.

Which makes for a sadly smooth transition to the current Census entry – for the dumpster fire that is 2020. Mum and I are the only remaining representatives of that original household and, like a decade ago, these are not the brightest days…

We still find ways to make the best of things though. And I try to remember that just recalling certain spaces of time can be like judging an amusement park only by that one picture they take of you on the scariest part of a ride. As with most of us I expect, each decade of my life has been a kind of rollercoaster – yes, with ups and downs – but filled with so much more excitement, laughs and joys than a look-in at a single point in time might reveal.

“Where were you in 2020?”

When we respond to the Census for this year (as we should!), basic facts probably won’t hint much at the turbulent and tragic times in which we’re living. For me, this kinda sums it up:

“Yaaaaaaaaahhh!!!”

Even so – it won’t tell our whole story.

Stay safe, everyone! And here’s a toast to better days!

Cheers!

21 comments

  1. Great time capsule Amy. Yes, where are we in 2020É Oh, I got this one….at home. Thanks for sharing and stay well. Allan

    1. Many thanks! You stay well too!

  2. I enjoyed the description of the “pink walls and purple trim” paper (I went through my colour themes, too) and the classic family photo at the beginning with those glasses. I see your Mother is wearing gloves and think of Sundays going to church and getting all dressed up. Remembering is hard sometimes, and I find my old tax returns a good reminder of which address I lived at that year.. There have always been special moments and those seem clear if not at times distorted: times at the cottage, at college, visiting friends or relatives although that is not the stuff of census.. Funny, for many of my photos I can remember where I took the photo and the feelings associated with them. I like to think I am better at remembering events rather than dates. Births, boyfriends and deaths with a lot of fun and mischief along the way. I want to hear more details of what you have done during these times that you have mentioned-you got me curious.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the trip through what seems increasingly like ancient history! I’m wondering if my family is so dressed up in that first picture because it’s Mother’s Day – the ladies do have corsages. Sounds like you’ve got some good resources for calling up the memories! I don’t want to bore readers but part of why I blog is to get some of my memories down before they fade. Thanks so much for reading!

  3. Times slips by whether we want it to or not. I join you in your toast to better day!

    1. Indeed – but cheers to making the best of it!

  4. I dont like counting the decades either. It was only yesterday!

    1. Yes, time sure flies! But thanks for pausing and stopping by!

  5. Kathleen Ray · · Reply

    Amy! Loved this epistle and I do remember Miss Johnson at Del Mar School-worked with her for a few years way back when
    So wonderful to read your words and remember happy times!
    Love Kathleen

    1. Thank you so much, Kathleen! In the course of my “research”, I found that my acting career kicked off in 1972 with “Panic in the Palace” – under some great direction! Love and best wishes to you from Mum and me both!

  6. Nice way to tell some of your personal history. Our census is always in the year ending 1 so we’ll have it next year. 1961 was the first year I graced it, so I can tell you exactly where I was in 62. I experienced my first house move that year and I was NOT impressed!

    1. Ah – interesting to know you’ll be queried next year! And my home address was stable for quite a while – then it just went all over the place! I’m not impressed with all the rigmarole of moving myself – too much work… Thanks for reading!

  7. Loved the Father Ted reference, and your reminiscing through the censuses! I actually applied to work on the 2021 British census, but never heard anything back, so I don’t think I’ve got the job! I find it interesting that not only are British censuses done the year after US ones, but that the US censuses become public after 75 years, and you have to wait 100 years for the British ones. Is the British government counting on people having longer lifespans?

    1. Yay! So glad you got the Father Ted nod!!! Not necessarily proud that it’s Dougal I feel the most like – but what can you do? Interesting about the difference in the release of census data. I love working on my family tree – so the sooner that data gets made available, the better for research. So much seems public anyway these days, I wonder if they’ll reconsider and release it sooner. In any event, thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

  8. Love the travel through time. I remember 1980, I was nine and recovering from a near-fatal car accident (Rang in the new year that year confined to a hospital bed with my leg in traction). 1990 saw the birth of my first child. 2000, I was a divorced working mother with school-aged children. 2010 saw the arrival of my first grandchild. Oooh, where does the time go!

    1. My – you’ve had some eventful decades! Yes, it’s amazing isn’t it how the time flies? Thanks for reading – and best wishes for marking many healthy and happy decades to come!

      1. Thank you, Amy. 🙂

  9. What a good post! I always enjoy your writing and getting to know you better. I loved the line describing 2020 as a dumpster fire. Yep! Take care.

    1. Thanks so much! And yes – somehow the “dumpster fire” description keeps getting more and accurate…Ah well – gotta soldier on! Best wishes and thanks for reading!

  10. I love those history programmes where they look up all the old records and try to piece someone’s life together – but how much can they really tell?

    1. I love those shows too – but you’re right! That’s why my dad decided to write an autobiography. After wishing he knew more about his ancestors than just dates and places, he decided to leave something that would let future generations that might care know what he was actually like – and I can tell you, it’s priceless! Thanks for stopping by!

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