It’s Your Turn

by Rob Gregory Browne

Okay.  Believe it or not, I was going to talk about Susan Boyle today.  I was going to go on a long rant about how people who do not look like movie stars tend to get less respect in this world, and how some of that seems to be spilling over into the publishing industry.

But since both Toni and Tess have already touched on Ms. Boyle, it makes little sense for me to contribute another post to the subject.

On top of that, as I write this I am sitting in a hotel room in Orlando after a long plane ride, only three hours sleep, and getting my brain to work beyond “Nuhhhhhhhh” is extremely difficult.

So guess what?  I’m going to let YOU do the work this time.  Yes, that’s right.  After trying desperately to come up with a non-Susan Boyle subject to talk about (damn you, Toni and Tess), I started flying around the Internet (with my special cyber wings) and stumbled across an interesting website called StoryCorps.  It’s a place that generates questions to help stir conversation.

So that’s what I’m hoping to do here.  Stir some conversation.  And I don’t want to see little namby-pamby responses.  Feel free to express yourself.  Go wild.  But do answer the questions.

And if I can steal away from the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention tomorrow, I’ll answer them myself.

So have at it.  It’s your turn:

1.  In the spirit of the Romantic Times conference:  When did you first fall in love?

2.  What was the saddest moment of your life?

3.  How is your life different than what you imagined?

4.  What is your earliest memory?

I look forward to reading your answers.

23 thoughts on “It’s Your Turn

  1. Skeptic

    1. First time I truly fell in love? I was 28. It was about six months after my divorce, and I was in love and terrified out of my wits – not in a place emotionally to feel what I did… so ultimately I walked away. No regrets.

    2. Saddest moment of my life was when my son moved to Florida (empty nest, felt like my best friend was moving to another planet – and he kind of was…)

    3. My life is really not any different than I imagined it would be. I think I recognized long ago where I was going and the major obstacles along the way (raising my son alone, single by choice, work, etc., etc.)

    4. I was two years old. My parents were moving into a house in the country. I saw a mouse on the staircase and screamed bloody murder.

  2. R.J. Mangahas

    1. First time I fell in love was in high school, but I think that was more of high school crush.

    2. Saddest moment in my life so far was when my fiancee Anne died.

    3. Well, I guess it’s different than I thought because at this point I had to move back home while I try to dig myself out of debt as a reslt of the answer to question number two.

    4. Sadly, I don’t remember my earliest memory.

  3. TerriMolina

    1. In the spirit of the Romantic Times conference: When did you first fall in love?
    when I was about 21. His name was Tony and he was a district supervisor at the restaurant where I worked. He had a fling with another woman (who was supposed to be my friend) and she trapped him in a marriage. so the drama!

    2. What was the saddest moment of your life? There are just way to many to list! But right now the one that stands out is when we moved from Tx to Az. My youngest daughter was 13 and had to leave her first boyfriend. He proimised her a long distance relationship (even though I told her those don’t work) then broke up with her a month later. My heart broke with her. =(

    3. How is your life different than what you imagined?
    I was raised in a life of poverty with little hope of getting out of it….so, very different now.

    4. What is your earliest memory?
    being pushed from the birth canal. haha…just kidding. My earliest memory is probably being locked in an old storage shed when I was about 5 or 6. My brothers and sisters dared me to stay in there for an hour and being the stubborn, don’t say no kid I was (and not much changed there) and of course not knowing the concept of time, I took the dare. Sad thing, they forgot about me and I stayed in there about ten hours (I fell asleep, I think). My mother found me when everyone sat down for dinner and she realized a seat was empty. (there are 7 of us…at that time she did head counts) haha

    Have fun at RT. I’ve never been to one and looking forward to the day I can finally make it.

  4. Louise Ure

    Sheesh, Rob, can I use the same questions for next Tuesday’s blog?

    1. Age seven. His name was Tommy Hawk. Really.

    2. Saddest moment? Not sure. Each new event keeps upping the ante.

    3. For some reason, I always thought I’d be "the youngest person to ever do XXXX." I had no notion of what that XXXX would be, but at 57 I think I can dump that "youngest person ever" part.

    4. I’m so bad a corralling old memories. My clearest early images are from age 5 or 6, getting my picture taken on a pinto pony.

  5. Gayle Carline

    1. In the spirit of the Romantic Times conference: When did you first fall in love? I’m not sure it was love, but I remember the first time a boy made my knees buckle. I was a senior in high school and he was a junior. We were completely mismatched, but I was over the moon for him. Years later, after I moved to California, I learned he was working at the same factory my dad worked at for years. If things had been different and we’d have married, I’d have been deeply unhappy.

    2. What was the saddest moment of your life? Probably when my grandfather died. I was very close to my mom’s parents, and even lived with them at one point. This was the first close family I had lost, and I couldn’t believe that he’d drop dead of a heart attack at 65.

    3. How is your life different than what you imagined? The only time I imagined my future was very briefly, when I was twelve. I thought I’d be a veterinarian.

    4. What is your earliest memory? I was 3 years old, and was standing in front of our little black and white TV. There was a variety show on, and Harry Belafonte was singing The Banana Boat Song, wearing a Caribbean-style shirt – puffy sleeves, open to the waiste. I said something to the effect of, "he’s pretty." My WASP mother was unamused. Pretty funny, now that I’m married to a black man!


  6. Michael Field

    The first love of my life was movies. I had just watched "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (on VHS, of course) with my father and I was immediately hooked on the way the movie made me wish and dream I was actually part of that world. The ultimate in escapism. Imagine my surprise and utter joy when my father informed me that there was another movie already made with the same characters. (Raiders of the Lost Ark) and then I fell in love all over again.

    Saddest moment? The day I found out there was no Santa Claus. Yeah, my childhood took a hit. The magic and mystery of life was revealed to be a fraud. I’m still looking for the unexplained in life in hopes of capturing that feeling again. It also just plain sucked!

    I imagined my life to be…quite frankly, I never thought that far ahead. I always thought I’d be rich. (Who hasn’t?) and I’m not not. I thought I’d have an awesome job. (I don’t) I also dreamed I’d end up dating this girl I’d known since the first grade, which never happened and thankfully so, because she didn’t blossom into a pretty girl. Oh…I also imagined myself to be an enlightened individual who didn’t judge people by looks.

    My earliest memory was a birthday party I had at my old house. All my classmates from school came and we had a good time. Not much of a memory, but it was that memory being so later in my life. (I believe I was 6 or 7 years old) That made me think that I wasn’t a normal child. Perhaps I wasn’t born? Perhaps I was created in a lab or from another planet? Why couldn’t I remember anything prior? But then…you remember what I said about Santa Claus. I’m still searching for that universal magic.

  7. Karen

    1. In the spirit of the Romantic Times conference: When did you first fall in love?
    Truly in love? With my husband in college.

    2. What was the saddest moment of your life?
    The day I heard a good friend and neighbor had died. He was a high school English teacher who helped me with all my essays through high school. Its been over a decade and I still miss him.

    3. How is your life different than what you imagined?
    I thought I’d be working in research still. I never imagined teaching at the college level.

    4. What is your earliest memory?
    Sitting under the dining room table (age 2ish) watching the movers pack up my house.

  8. Robin of My Two Blessings

    In the spirit of the Romantic Times conference: When did you first fall in love? First grade with a boy in our neighborhood. It must have been love because I was fascinated with his rock collection.

    2. What was the saddest moment of your life? Bringing my mother in law home after she suffered a brain stem stroke and being with her in her last days.

    3. How is your life different than what you imagined? I imagined having 5 or more kids, being a stay at home mom, while dad does the nine to 5 thing.
    Now I’m married to an electronic genius, we own our own business and due to complications during childbirth our son became our one and only. My life is so much better than imagined.

    4. What is your earliest memory? Living in Texas I was about 4 I think and had a ride-em yogi bear. I was up before everyone else and took it outside to ride on the sidewalk. I remember my father flying out of the house, in his blue robe, mad as all get out, but relieved I was close by. Yes, I did get a spanking.

  9. Jake Nantz

    1. In the spirit of the Romantic Times conference: When did you first fall in love?
    High School. Girl named Liz. We thought we were so cool, too. No idea where she is now.

    2. What was the saddest moment of your life?
    Not what it should have been. My youngest half-sister died at 19 from an aneurysm. It should have been the saddest moment of my life, but her bitch mother had left and taken her to Omaha, and being the selfish asshole that I am, I never tried very hard to pull myself away from my own interests to try and get to know her. She had called me not long before it happened, and we had a nice talk on the phone. Then I never called her back.

    3. How is your life different than what you imagined?
    I’m not where I thought I deserved to be when I was a kid, and yet even as I strive to become more, I’m okay with where I am and I thank God for the blessings I’ve had in my life.

    4. What is your earliest memory?
    Too garbled and embarrassing to talk about.

  10. Cornelia Read

    1. In the spirit of the Romantic Times conference: When did you first fall in love?

    When I was four, with my best friend Jay. He’s now an Indy Car driver. We tried to elope in 1967 and got busted with a suitcase, sneaking out the back door of his parents’ house. Second time I was nine and unfortunately the object of my affections was a lover of my mother’s. He was seventeen and she was thirty-five at the time. He went on to sleep with my best friend and my sister, about a decade later. Oh well.

    2. What was the saddest moment of your life?

    When my father stopped speaking to me because he thought I’d caused my daughter’s autism.

    3. How is your life different than what you imagined?

    I’m published. I never ever thought I’d even be able to finish a manuscript. Life is good.

    4. What is your earliest memory?

    I was standing in my crib in my grandparents’ brownstone on East End Avenue, and two bears walked into the room. Their heads looked like upside-down phone receivers. We had a nice chat. I was about 18 months old.

  11. Pari

    1.When did you first fall in love?
    When I was 23 in Ann Arbor. His name was Larry Manderville. A marvelous jazz pianist, Larry also was a broadcast engineer. We lived together for three years, including three months in the back of a Ford Econoline van while traveling through the SW and Mexico. I’ve lost touch with him but wish him only joy.

    2. What was the saddest moment of your life?
    When my godfather died 10 years ago April 21. He was my rock.

    3. How is your life different than what you imagined?
    For the longest time I thought I was going to go into international law; that’s why I studied seven languages . . . but writing always called. Of course, I thought I’d be as famous as JK Rowling or Charlaine Harris by now, too. But there are NO regrets. I’m happy and my life is wonderful.

    4. What is your earliest memory?
    I was riding my tricycle home after Mother had called me in for dinner and I remember hitting the crack between the driveway and the street and thinking, "I don’t have to tell her where I’ve been." I guess it was the realization that I could keep secrets from someone I loved that made me feel incredibly powerful — the master of my own universe. Pretty powerful stuff for a toddler.

  12. Stacy McKitrick

    1. In the spirit of the Romantic Times conference: When did you first fall in love? In the 2nd or 3rd grade I fell in love with Eric Belt. We even planned our wedding!

    2. What was the saddest moment of your life? When we had to put our dog, Barney, to sleep. It was during Christmas, too. 2001 was a crappy year all around!

    3. How is your life different than what you imagined? I thought I would have a bigger family, but after 2 kids, I realized I wasn’t made that way. Two was enough and I love them to pieces.

    4. What is your earliest memory? When I was about 4 I remember sleeping in the toy bin. Guess I wanted to be with all those stuffed animals!

  13. kit

    When did you first fall in love?
    when I was 22…it was a one night stand that got outa hand…(I was a product of the 70’s — formative years) we lived together while I was in college, we faught, broke up, then 12 yrs later after some life in-between married each other…still married…had to go through all tht other stuff to appreciate now

    2. What was the saddest moment of your life? when my dad died….I was 19. I was a daddy’s girl, the youngest in a family of five, with 4 older brothers….I was angry with everyone that still had their dads and I didn’t. I was also a pain to my family, because I refused to make him a saint..just because he died…it just seemed WRONG to me….I refused to put him on a pedestal…I loved and missed the REAL man…my dad..warts and all.

    3. How is your life different than what you imagined? I never thought I would be so family orientated…or such a Do-it-yourself-er. it’s easy -going with a plan under it all…pretty fluid. and I can have it all..just not in ways I ever imagined…..

    4. What is your earliest memory? beating my dad home, when I stayed out past curfew and he was looking for me…I outran him…by cutting across yards and going in the alleys behind the mortuary and a place I thought a murderer lived….I guess I was more afraid of the living than the dead. If I ran fast and didn’t make too much noise, they woudln’t realize I was there….I was about 5 at the time.
    I jumped into bed with my clothes on..and buried under the blankets.
    Dad wasn’t mean…but that reasonable voice was worse than any spanking.

  14. Rob Gregory Browne

    Wow. A LOT of great responses. I managed to steal some time away, so will offer up my answers as well, although brief:

    1. First time I feel in love was in elementary school, a girl named Candy Ternowsky. I fell hard and she never knew it, although when we walked home from school (on opposite sides of the street), I used to serenade her with songs like "Moon River." Yes, I was an idiot. And I’m sure she thought so, too.

    2. Saddest moment in my life was originally when my father died. That was tough. But the even sadder moment was when my daughter’s boyfriend died and as sad as I was to see a young man suffer, it was even tougher to see what my daughter was going through. She was there with him by his side until the very last moment. Hell, I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

    3. My life is only slightly different. I imagined I would be writing and directing movies by now. In a sense, I am, but only on paper. And the truth? I prefer it this way.

    4. My earliest memory is, at three years old, sleepwalking into the bathroom and peeing on the floor at around ten pm. My parents laughed about it and my father scooped me up and took me back to bed.

  15. BobbieAnne

    I love reading these answers of people I don’t even know, although some break my heart.

    1. First time in love: I was 14 and his name was Derrick. He had beautiful eyes and he made me laugh more than anyone else ever had. He moved that year and I saw him again two years later at a thespian convention. I fell for him all over again although I knew we’d never see each other again. The thought of him 25 years later still makes me smile.

    2. Saddest moment: I had gone downstairs during the middle of the night six years ago to get something to drink and saw the answering machine light blinking. I started crying before I even checked the message, knowing it was bad news about my dad. I called my sister and learned his cancer had spread to his bones, which I knew meant he wasn’t going to be around much longer. Those several minutes in the dark by myself were by far the saddest, even sadder than when he actually died a month later. All my real and imagined fears came to life right then.

    3. My life is exactly as I had imagined it, except that it’s a lot harder than I had imagined it would be: marriage is harder; mothering four children is harder; writing is harder. As a kid, you think that if you want it badly enough, you can have it. But you don’t always realize what getting what you want really means. I wouldn’t trade my life with anyone’s and am immensely grateful it, but even when you have just what you want, you have to keep figuring out over and over how to keep what you have.

    4. Earliest memory: Peeping out of a cannon my father had put me in when I was less than 2 years old and we were visiting yet another battlefield as a family.

  16. frau

    1. In the spirit of the Romantic Times conference: When did you first fall in love?
    It happened gradually, from one nebula to another.
    Sometime around Season 3 it dawned on me that maybe, just maybe, the sympathy I felt for Lt. Commander Data was a bit more.

    Was it because he was an android, and would never throw pencils at me like the male homo sapiens population of my class did? Was it because he had such an innocent curiosity of anything human, and would thus find everything from my clunky glasses to the bubblegum in my hair "interesting" as opposed to "pencil-throwing-targetable"? Was it simply his gloss-painted good looks?

    I still don’t know. But I do know that the Borg bitch that gave him a sex drive and then tried to smooch him up in that horrendous movie was a TOTAL skank and I can’t believe that scene ever happened.

    3. How is your life different than what you imagined?
    I don’t live in a candy house and I’ve also reconsidered the awesomeness of pink fluffy fabric.

    Actually. This is the thing. My life has become a chain reaction of increasingly bizarre and mystifying events. Not always in a good way, you know, but definitely the plot twists keep me interested. Keep in mind I am not making any of this up.

    Every three years or so, I find myself

    A) involved with militant soccer hooligans. Shit. I don’t even LIKE soccer. Hope they don’t notice. Lie low.

    B) alone on a new continent. Shit. Friendly Guy From The Internet, I thought you said we had permission to live in this apartment! Well, the owners are here and they’re disagreeing.

    C) in an Ivy League college. Wait, what, do these people know I never graduated that shitty high school in country X? Shit. Lie low.

    D) mental institution. Oh, wow, we’re listening to dolphin soundtracks now? What, you TRYING to make me suicidal? Shit. Big guy with the bling’s looking my way. Lie low.

    E) in a small town in Sweden. How? Why? When? Why is beer so expensive here? These shrimp-themed meals are delicious, though.

    Sometimes I think I should have just stuck to the fluffy pink tutus. They made far more sense.

    4. What is your earliest memory?
    The Closet. My father used to collect foreign comic books, most of which he never read. After a while we must have ran out of shelf space, so one day, there was this whole walk-in closet in our apartment, filled with funky-smelling old Donald Duck magazines in Cyrillic.

    I used to read them on the potty. That’s right, in Cyrillic.
    Already then it had started. The conspiracy of weird circumstances webbing around me.

  17. Ashley Ludwig

    First time I fell in love? High school. He joined the marines, I went to college. Long distance was bittersweet — lots of passion, many tears. He safely came home from the gulf war, and we called it quits.

    Saddest moment? Finding out my best friend’s father died. She never let on how sick he really was–my heart still wrenches that I didn’t go see him one last time.

    My life…is different, because I thought I’d marry love #1, have kids all grown up by now, and be well into my umpteenth NYT bestseller. Well, I ended up marrying love #?!? — adopting two beautiful babies (now 5 & 3 1/2) — and am just releasing book #1! Long and winding road, but I am enjoying the trip!

    Earliest memory? Must have been 3 – maybe 4. Watching the rain streak down the window of our Chapel Hill, NC home – wondering if the sun would ever come out again. Drinking coke from a bottle, eating fireplace popped popcorn, and wrapping up in grandma’s rainbow afghan to keep warm. Always have been a desert girl, at heart!

    Thanks for the question – have fun at the conference!

  18. Katherine C.

    1) First love: Not sure what grade I was in — 1st, 2nd? — nor do I know his name, but I do remember being smitten. And then crushed when this much older man — a ROTC student of Dad’s who I met a couple times when visiting Dad at work, and I think he babysat us once or twice — showed up to an end-of-the-year barbecue at our house … WITH A GIRL!! Got over it by the end of the night though, if I remember correctly.

    2) Saddest moment: That would be a two-way tie. When I got the e-mail my sophomore year of college that my best friend from high school, Sarah Hall, had died of ovarian cancer at the age of 19. Despite the fact she’d been sick for almost a year, the last time I had heard anything — a few weeks before — she had seemed to finally be doing better. So in addition to the loss it was just a shock. I couldn’t decide whether I was more sad or angry, but my initial reaction was to start bawling — fairly certain I screamed too — and hurl a shoe at the wall.
    The second would be sitting in the hospital with Grandma esssentially watching my Grandpa die. Everyone else had gone home, but my sister and I had only gotten there about 30 min. before visiting hours ended, so I opted to stay and sit with Grandma. I’m glad I was there, but it was by far the longest, and worst, night of my life. The worst moment was probably when the nurses asked Grandma what she wanted them to do if he crashed again, and she looked to me for the answer. I panicked and called my Dad, aunts and uncle to make them make that decision.
    3) life: Pretty close to how I expected, at least in high school. I had planned on teaching and coaching after working (as a newspaper reporter) in the "real world" to gain experience first, and I’m no longer certain that’s the way I want to go, but otherwise I think it’s close, minus marriage with a couple kids, but I’m fairly certain I’m not going to keel over and die if that doesn’t happen by 30. I hope, although certain female relatives disagree …
    4) earliest memory: Running/skipping in circles around the back yard at the age of 3 or 4 wearing a turtle neck and a hot pink skirt. Of course, in my mind this happened around Easter while we were still in Germany and Grandma, Grandpa and Uncle Charlie were there, but I’ve been told it was actually after we came back to the states (back in Alabama, maybe?) so how clear is it really? My parents did use a photo of that for the ad in my senior yearbook though.

  19. Tom

    1. When did you first fall in love?
    Hit me hard when I was 15. We had two pretty happy years together, then circumstances aligned against us, and I treated her badly. It would have ended anyway, but I still feel like a jerk where she’s concerned.

    2. What was the saddest moment of your life?
    When I learned that, even with the best intentions, there are people and animals and events too broken to be helped.

    3. How is your life different than what you imagined?
    Most every-which-way. Things blew up on us in the 1990s. Past expectations and plans of all kinds went out the window. We changed, we coped, we’re still standing and together.

    4. What is your earliest memory?
    Somewhere between the age of two and three, I asked my mother why the ghost was hovering at the door to the apartment hallway. It wasn’t a ghost; it was a clothes hanger with a dry cleaner’s laundry cover hung over it. Took seven more years to figure out I really was nearsighted.

  20. Chris Hamilton

    1. In the spirit of the Romantic Times conference: When did you first fall in love?
    If you don’t count Debbie Moore and Julianne Thomas in elementary school, I’d have to say when I was 19. Jane Lundgren stole my pen while I was on the air at the college radio station and told me I had to kiss her to get it back. Not being the smoothest with those people (women), I stammered and blushed and had to admit that I’d never kissed a girl before.

    2. What was the saddest moment of your life?
    Probably when my grandfather died when I was a kid. I don’t specifically remember it, but I believe it’s caused my road to be a little longer and windier than it might have otherwise been.

    3. How is your life different than what you imagined?
    I figured by the time I was 45, I’d have figured it out. I figured wrong.

    4. What is your earliest memory?
    I drove my sister’s baby stroller up the wall and broke it. And I was not popular for having done so. I must have been four or five.

  21. Naomi

    1. When did you first fall in love? In 1964, when I was 8 years old. He was 22. I knew it was forever. I was right. When I was 14, he married someone else. She was a good woman. I didn’t blame him. When she died, I thought he might finally see me, I mean really see me. I mean, I was all grown up – and then some. But no, he married again. She wasn’t right for him, I knew it before the flowers in her bouquet had faded. So now he’s divorced. I still love him. And it’s just like he doesn’t even know my name. Wait. He really doesn’t know my name. And I love him anyway.

    2. What was the saddest moment of your life? The moment that I realized that the chemo, the radiation, nothing was going to save my dad’s life.

    3. How is your life different than what you imagined? As per #1 above, I am not married to Paul McCartney.

    4. What is your earliest memory? I was maybe two or three. My mom was making pancakes, I was seated at the table, high enough that I could see everything. Outside I heard a train coming, and my mom said I had to learn to say grace.

  22. Viva

    1. When did you first fall in love?
    Hard to say. Every time seems like the first time.

    2. What was the saddest moment of your life?
    When I lost both my parents.

    3. How is your life different than what you imagined?
    I thought I would grow up to be president.

    4. What is your earliest memory?
    I was almost four. I climbed out of my crib after a nap, marched into the kitchen and proceeded to tell my mother I was too old to be sleeping in a crib and I wanted big peoples bed.


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