The Magical Power of Imagination

© 2007 Brooke Allen
brooke@brookeallen.com www.BrookeAllen.com
Originally published in International Family Magazine

As an undergraduate I went on a date to see a famous “mentalist”. I find magicians entertaining. My date was eager to show me proof of the supernatural. I was entertained and she found her evidence.

His first feat was to control the minds of two volunteers. He had asked the promoters to provide a selection of decks of cards. Two volunteers each chose a deck and shuffled them. The volunteers sat at desks a few feet apart, each with a face-down deck.

The mentalist then remembered that the effect was difficult if the decks contained any jokers so he quickly removed them.

Each volunteer was asked to cut the deck about a third of the way into the pack and turn those cards over, placing them face up on top of the rest of the deck. Then they were to repeat the process, cutting past the face-up cards and turn them over again.

Finally, he used his mind to command the volunteers to remove the face-up cards so as to find the first face-down card.

Amazingly, they both had found the eight of clubs.

“See,” said she.

“I see,” said I.

He asked the audience to think of a number between one and one hundred, both digits odd but not the same. For example, 15 and 91 would be OK but 55 was not. We all thought of a number.

“I can sense many of you are thinking of 37… or perhaps 73. Raise your hand if I am right?”

Many hands went up. Not all, but certainly more than one percent.

She was thinking of 37.  I was thinking of 88. She was much better than me at following instructions..

“Do the math,” she said.

“I have,” I said.

I left amused. She left with a renewed faith.

While in graduate school I saw an act called the Asparagus Valley Cultural Society featuring two magicians who would later work together as Penn and Teller. They claimed to be no more than entertainers. They were very entertaining.

In 2005, thirty years after first seeing him on stage, I heard Penn Jillette’s essay on National Public Radio entitled “There is no God.”

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5015557

Like many people, he and I believe there is no God.

But I do believe in providence even though one definition is: “a manifestation of God’s foresightful care for his creatures.”

In high school, I imagined I would find something in college that would excite my passions. Three years later I did.

I imagined I could make a living at it, and for thirty years I have.

I imagined I would find a woman to love and ten years later I did.

We imagined having wonderful children and we have.

I imagined writing stories for them and I have.

I imagined that someone would be interested in publishing some of those stories and at Sea-Tac airport I met Catherine Wayland and she did. Here they are.

If you imagine that there is a foresightful God looking out for you, you will find ample evidence that there is. Even if there isn’t.

You don’t need to believe in God to trust in providence.

Time to Get Married

OPD 06/01/2006

Time to Get Married[*]

© 2008 Brooke Allen
brooke@brookeallen.com www.BrookeAllen.com

 

We had been dating for a year when I began to wonder to myself, “Is this the woman I should marry?”

I started asking everyone I came across, “How does one tell if someone is ‘the right one?’”

A young female squealed, “When you speak baby talk to each other. Isn’t that right daadeee?”

“Goo goo.” He replied.

Yuck.

“When your hearts join as one,” was the simultaneous reply of an old couple on a bus. I was enthralled… until a fight broke out between them. “I was speaking.” “You always interrupt me.” “Oh, shut-up.”

“You’ll just know.” A common but useless answer.

“Chemistry.” Another.

“When you can picture yourselves doing absolutely everything together.” I thought about that. I could even picture it. It wasn’t attractive… surely not everything?

“When you don’t have eyes for any other woman.” Not me. I have eyes for every other woman.

“When you think she is the most beautiful woman in the world.”  Nope. I’d rank her an 8.

I asked the most beautiful woman I’d ever met, “Gina, I’m thinking of getting married. How do I know it is the right thing to do?”

She said, “I wish it were me.”

“I didn’t realize marrying you was one of my options.”

“That’s not what I mean. I wish I were the one getting married. I can picture it perfectly… the house… the children… I even know what my kitchen will look like.”

She seemed to be in the advanced stages of something. I asked, “Does your boyfriend share your vision?”

“I don’t have a boyfriend.”

I talked about this to Jack, a friend at work. He said, “It is a mistake to imagine your future with someone.”

“Why?”

“You’ll be disappointed. Besides, you’ll close off the opportunity for lots of adventure.”

I asked, “How did you know your wife was the right one?”

“Lack of imagination. I couldn’t imagine a future without her. That is why I had to marry her.”

On our wedding day I could not have imagined the children we’ve raised, the things we’ve done or the places we’ve been.

But it would have all been unimaginable without Eve.

I have no idea what the future will bring, but I still can’t imagine it without Eve.

Jack was right.

When you can’t imagine a future without a certain person, you have to ensure you have that person in it.

You can leave everything else to chance.

 

 

 


[*] Note: This photograph was not taken at our wedding (which took place at City Hall in New York) but two days later at a Fake Wedding conducted by Alan Abel, an internationally renowned prankster (but that’s another story). Alan’s shenanigans and my goofiness should have given Eve ample warning of what she was getting into. But I fear it has not.

How Grandmother Won Granddad in a Beauty Contest

by: Brooke Allen
brooke@brookeallen.com www.BrookeAllen.com

OPD 05/01/2006

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.”

It was.

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.

The Right Woman

OPD 05/01/2006

© 2006 Brooke Allen
brooke@brookeallen.com www.BrookeAllen.com
Originally published in International Family Magazine

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?”

“By five.”

“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.

Choose Adventure

OPD 05/01/2006

© 2006 Brooke Allen
brooke@brookeallen.com www.BrookeAllen.com
Originally published May 2006 in International Family Magazine

grand013
My son and my grandmother.

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.