Brooke Allen began writing stories for his school newspaper in high school, for his literary magazine in college, and most recently for his children. He has a BA in mathematics and is a great believer in writing things down -- proofs and prose. He has been a teacher, speaker, computer programmer, and entrepreneur.
Mr. Allen lives in Glen Ridge, New Jersey with his wife, Eve, and two sons, Davis and Glen.
He would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org
Generations of Stories
In 1966 my sister, Ruth, and I spent eight summer weeks in St. Mawes, Cornwall, a sleepy fishing village with a population of perhaps 200 souls. My grandmother had fallen in love with a two bedroom thatched cottage that had been built in 1450 as sleeping quarters for the guards at St. Mawes Castle.
During that summer we had no television, no VCR, no CD player, no iPod, no Internet and no computer games. We didn't even have a telephone; we used the payphone at the village square. (Eventually they did get a telephone and were assigned the number 414. In the USA we use 414 as the area code for the entire eastern half of Wisconsin.)
My sister and I did find a few books, but mostly we had our grandparents as entertainment.
We spent our days listening to their stories. I’d estimate: 4 hours/day, 5 days/week (assume weekends off), 8 weeks total. That comes to 160 hours of storytelling.
My sister and I were fascinated by their stories, however we were somewhat annoyed. In their presence we felt we had so few interesting things to say.
In that sleepy village, in that ancient house, we heard of how they: had survived three revolutions in Latin America, how they crossed the Andes on mules carrying short-wave radio equipment, and how they were in the Caribbean on a German tramp steamer headed for the Netherlands Antilles on the day the US entered World War II.
I'm scratching the surface here…
At the end of that summer I asked my grandmother, "How do we ever get to have so many stories of our own?"
She said, "Live an interesting life and collect your stories. Do that and when you are our age you will have plenty to say to your grandchildren."
"But, what do I have to do to have as exciting a life as yours?"She said:
When you are faced with choices that are the same in all other aspects, choose the path that offers the greatest adventure.
How Grandmother Won Granddad in a Beauty Contest
My Grandma Anne was a southern belle born and raised
in Dallas. Granddad Tom was raised in Chicago and sent from home at 14
to earn has way as a man. They met in New York City.
Anne had entered a beauty contest. In those days (before the bikini) young ladies were judged on poise, grace and intelligence. She won.
First prize: a week in New York. All expenses paid.
At first she was excited. Then it occurred to her that she didn't know a soul in that Yankee city.
A friend set up a blind date for her first day in the Big Apple. She was to meet him under the big clock above the 42nd street entrance to Grand Central Station.
She leaned against the western wall as she inspected the young man standing across from her.
"Gawd," she thought to herself, "let it not be him."
At first they weren't attracted to each other but they were both desperately lonely for Tom had no friends in the city either. What’s more, on Sunday he was to be shipped out to Cuba by the United Press International, his employer.
They spent all of that week together and on Saturday Anne decided not to return to her life in Dallas.
That is how it came to be that my father was born in Havana.
They had picked the path that promised the most adventure.
I don't recommend that you marry a woman a week after a first encounter, however,
If there is a gene for romance, there is a good chance you've inherited it.
The Right Woman
I began trading in May of 1988. By the summer of 1990 I felt like I was ready for a change. My days were spent in the most exciting, least interesting work imaginable. At least we had some money in the bank.
Your mother and I made a decision. We would change careers.
Eve was accepted into a Ph. D. program in Marketing. I would take a Masters in education so that I might become a sixth grade teacher.
Then something happened…
One afternoon in mid-August at 2:00 PM, my boss swiveled in his chair to face me,
"Brooke, would you like to go to Japan?"
"Do you mean for a business trip?"
"No. I mean to do some work."
"For a few weeks?”
"Nope," he smiled, "For a few years."
I was stunned. "That is a big decision. I have a family now and I wouldn’t spend that much time away from them. We could all move but my wife is starting graduate school."
My boss nodded, "It is a huge decision. You must think about where the kids will go to school, what you wife will do, where you will live. I'll tell you another thing; when you return from an overseas assignment you'll probably have to start your career over again. Be thorough in your deliberations and consider all the alternatives. I'll respect your decision whatever it might be. No pressure."
"How soon do you need to know?"
"Oh... Just tell me by five."
Wow! Three hours to decide.
So I called Eve on the telephone.
"Do you want to go to Japan?"
"Are you inviting me along on a business trip?"
"No. He wants me to go do some work."
"For a few weeks?"
"No. A couple of years. We would all move to Tokyo."
She was silent for a few seconds, "Gee. When does he want to know?"
"Well then, I guess we’d better discuss it now."We told him we would go within the hour.
If you're going to pick the path that promises the most adventure, it helps to be married to the right woman.