I’ve been itching to write about my big, loud, hilarious Irish-Catholic family. I’m the baby of seven — yes, you read that right — and I feel it’s a necessary piece of information for understanding me as a person. My family of four girls and three boys is called the Chappell Army, the name coined by a family priest who used to joke that we could form a small militia.
I wasn’t quite sure how to approach writing about my family — that is, until my apartment flooded last weekend.
Long story short, the kitchen sink at my janky old apartment got clogged, causing the whole plumbing system to back up and the dishwasher to fill with water and pour all over our kitchen floor. Then, the toilet in the lower level of the apartment propelled — yes, propelled — black water all over the bathroom.
It was nightmarish. My roommates were panicking and trying to call anyone they could to help. I knew just who to call — my handyman dad, who knew by photographic memory how to turn all the water valves off. I also sent a text to my 11-person family group text sharing what had happened.
After my brothers were done teasing me about the situation, they started sharing advice on how to make it through the weekend without maintenance help. My oldest brother who lives in the Chicago suburbs with his wife even offered to let me stay overnight with them if things got really bad.
It was a low moment, but strangely, I also felt extremely grateful for my built-in safety net of family helpers who gave me a good laugh. They’ve helped me navigate life without taking anything too seriously.
One of my roommates looked over my shoulder and was shocked by how large the family group text is. The Chappell Army continues to grow with the addition of spouses and nieces and nephews. It’s only going to get bigger.
My parents are from the same small town in southeast Kansas near Oklahoma, called Coffeyville, and have been best friends since my five-year-old mom showed my six-year-old dad her crayons in a driveway in 1967. The Army formed in Lawrence, Kansas — near Kansas City — but we moved to Colorado in 2001 when I was two.
Growing up as the baby of the Army was the best gift my parents could’ve given me. I saw so many examples of what to do — and what not to do — with my life, and I learned so much while trying to be exactly like my older siblings.
I learned flexibility by taking naps in strollers at older sibling’s sporting events, resourcefulness through all the classic hand-me-downs I wore and creativity by all the ways we entertained ourselves with simple items around the house. I probably should’ve worn a helmet at all times during my childhood.
I developed a love for comedy watching all the ‘90s Saturday Night Live DVD specials with my siblings when I was too young to even understand some of the humor. I have nearly all the lines from The Best of Chris Farley special memorized and “Bill Swerski’s Superfans” is still my favorite sketch. Little did I know I’d end up in Chicago rubbing shoulders with superfan clones.
I could go into great detail about my growing up years — but I’m saving it for a book I may eventually write about the rollercoaster ride the life of a Chappell has been. This column doesn’t even scratch the surface.
I’ll leave you with one example that hopefully paints the picture a little bit: My 21st birthday this summer was supposed to be spent in New Orleans — my favorite place — with my family, but COVID-19 put a damper on that plan. Instead, my family brought New Orleans to my oldest brother’s backyard in Illinois. It was a blast. We made the signature New Orleans drink, the Hurricane, and wore Mardi Gras beads. We later joked that the real hurricane was the Chappell Army blowing through Illinois.
What a ride it’s been, and there are only more memories to be made. I’m indebted and forever grateful to my parents for giving us such a fun life.
In news this week, find an update on the Francis Hall construction and the Cudahy Hall renovation and an obituary on the late Thomas Tobin S.J., a longtime Loyola faculty member.
In opinion, a staff editorial on how to avoid a rut while taking online classes and a piece on how to market sustainable practices to consumers during the climate crisis.
In A&E, read up on a Chicago-based band with a new single and a story on student wardrobes through the pandemic. In sports, a guide for new students on what to know about Loyola Athletics and a story introducing new additions to the men’s basketball team.