Top 5 with Chuck Collins

by Susan Henderson on November 28, 2007

Name your 5 fondest memories with your folks.

This question is for all my readers. But Chuck Collins will kick things off with his answers. Who is Chuck Collins? He is the host of The Radio Murders. And despite being a Browns fan, I like him a whole lot. Here’s Chuck….


Mom and Dad were terrific parents and wonderful people. I wish I could be so firm in my beliefs and committed to doing what is right.

5) How Dad handled being told that his young family could not stay at a Missouri motel in 1961; no coloreds allowed. He said, “Thank you. We will find a better place.”

4) Mom swooning over meeting Larry Doby in our dining room. She had to lean on the door jam.

3) The time I slipped on a rock on the shore of Lake Erie and Dad waiting just long enough to see if I would remember my swimming training. I didn’t, and he pulled me out like a two-pound perch.

2) Dad addressing a group of staff and counselors at the learning camp that was one of the projects he managed. He looked so in control!

1) Mom chasing a black bear away in Yellowstone Park. “You aren’t getting near my boys, Mr. Bear!” She used a frying pan.


Chuck’s Bio:

Quick, talk about yourself!

Most people would stumble around and feel very uncomfortable. Not me. I like what I do and who I’ve become. Sure, I could lose a few pounds and maybe take a lesson from Sting on those hours-long sessions he used to brag about. But aside from that I was dealt a pretty good hand.

Everyday, in two different radio markets, I have the chance to let strangers get to know me. At least they hear me and make up their own minds. I’ve been a broadcast professional for almost 34 years and still love it. They have to tell me to go home after a twelve-hour day, it is that much fun.

In 2001 I took the money and ran; granted myself a sabbatical to write. I didn’t know what I was going to write, I just knew I wanted to do it. The result is The Radio Murders. I am very proud of the effort, though I know there is still much work to do to chisel these six volumes into commercial successes. Like most of you, I am not willing to let the characters and the worlds that populate this work fade.

Susan is one of those people. She is like Rowdy Yates with all the tools needed to corral unruly, often undisciplined talent and keep us on the trail. A whip is not out of the question.

For that I am eternally grateful.


Thank you, Chuck. I just put whip on my Christmas list.

Okay, your turn! And after you play, go check out Chuck’s website and also make him your MySpace friend.

{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

Kimberly November 28, 2007 at 8:15 am

5. My father’s fondness for Sunday afternoon “Char-be-chews” and the dance he performs at his grill.

4. For my thirteenth birthday, my mother walked into my room and threw three pamphlets about menstruation on my bed as I was doing my homework and said “I picked these up for you at the doctor’s office. If you have any questions, I’m always here to talk.” And then she abruptly turned and walked out of the room. That was the extent of our only sex talk. (Not the Queen of Communication, she.)

3. My folks were really, REALLY broke and had to move in with my mom’s parents for a few years while my dad drove a big rig. But as kids, we never, ever knew about their dire situation. My mom made the absolute best of a terrible circumstance and for us, it was the best time of our lives.

2. At Halloween, my dad likes to dress up as a scarecrow and sit on the front porch in a lawn chair. As kids come to the door, he jumps to life and scares the sh!t out of them. It mortified me as a pre-teen, but I crack up every time I think about it now…

1. My mom is a foot shorter than my dad, and a pre-requisite for each new house they buy is that it possess a “kissing step”, so that my mom doesn’t have to stand on her tippy-toes.


jonathan evison November 28, 2007 at 9:31 am

. . .like your style, chuck! . . . ex-talk radio guy, myself, who took that writing sabbatical . . .though i never clocked back in . . . i especially like the healthy respect you have for your parents . . .

5. my old man invented a sonic ant-deterrent.
4. he built me a priate radio station in the garage attic when i was 12, with a signal that covered at least a square mile.
3. my mom still brings me bags of lightbulbs and toilet paper.
2. that old blue velour bathrobe my mom used to beat around in.
1. my dad still calls me tiger.



lance_reynald November 28, 2007 at 10:17 am

difficult top 5.
to a passing stranger my answers are going to look a bit odd, perhaps detached…but, hey….it is what it is.

5. My mother understood her limitations, she followed her path in a world that may not easily understand her need to do so.
4. My father was the guy that thought every lottery ticket her ever bought was a winner. Each and every one.
3. Though parenting and family wasn’t something either of them could do, I know they loved me and want only the best for me.
2. Though it seems to opposite of his lifestyle my Father was the most astounding bargain hunter. If something was a good buy he’d stock up on it; whether any one needed or even liked the bargain item. Going to a place like Costco with him was a great experiment in the absurd. That one memory still causes me to laugh; “Dad, but I don’t even like Ranch dressing, and certainly not 2 gallons of it.”
1. Though they were far from model parents; I miss them both terribly every day. So much I still have left to share. So many days I wish I could get one of them on the phone to get their thoughts on what I should do…

sorry that all was a bit…something… but, difficult question for me.


Kimberly November 28, 2007 at 11:02 am

wow! i thought I was the only one in the world who didn’t like ranch dressing! 🙂


Aurelio November 28, 2007 at 11:08 am

Thank you for introducing Chuck to us. Here are my 5:

5) My now 88 year old dad dressing as Elvis this Halloween. If you knew my dad you’d understand how unlike Elvis he’s been his whole life. This is the first time I ever recall my dad dressing up for Halloween. I admire his ability to go on and challenge himself try new things.

4) (Very old memory) My mom wearing a look of panic and asking, “Where’s Kevin…?” (My younger brother.) He was right in her arms at the time. She was so used to holding him he had become a part of her. Everyone laughed and she blushed.

3) My dad writing his life story, 543 pages of it, single spaced, in third-person.

2) (Another old one) Homemade egg noodles hanging from the backs of all the kitchen chairs to dry. My mom made everything from scratch and the best pies ever.

1) (Old again) My dad reading us poems from The Golden Book of Poetry before bed each night, like, “George, Who Played with a Dangerous Toy and Suffered a Catastrophe of Considerable Dimensions” and “Beth Gelert.”


Sarah Bain November 28, 2007 at 2:05 pm

Wow, also difficult for me because my father died when I was 5 and I have no memory of him so my memories are mostly from stories people told me.

5. My father kneeling on the grass in front of our house when he found out my mom was pregnant and praying to God for a girl. (They already had 3 sons)
4. Immediately after I was born, my father left the hospital and went home and painted my nursery pink. My mom didn’t see him until the next day and she didn’t know where he’d gone.
Wow, it’s the word ‘fondest’ that stumps me – I have a poor, poor memory and I have trouble thinking about this.
3. The five of us (my mother, 3 siblings and me) driving 8 hours in a Comet up to my grandparents’ double-wide trailer for holidays.
2. Waking up in my grandmother’s home to her cooking breakfast.
1. Skipping school to bake cookies with my grandmother when she was visiting.

My mother worked 2 sometimes 3 jobs to support us so she wasn’t around much in the daily activities of our lives very often. But breakfast and dinner was always on the table!


Sarah Bain November 28, 2007 at 2:06 pm

Oh, Kim, I started bleeding during a party my mom was throwing and when I interrupted her she said, “there are some things under the counter in the bathroom you may use.”

End of discussion.


Erin November 28, 2007 at 2:35 pm

5. Mom and dad accompanied me all the way to Hawaii to drop me off at school when I was 17. They got me settled into my dorm and said, “You okay, then?” And left to catch their plane back to Utah.
4. Dad sitting on a chair in front of the oven, tending his steak.
3. Mom, pushing 60 years old, explaining what she had learned at her ice skating lesson that day and demonstrating the “move” in the living room. Then when I said, “I want to take ice skating!” she said, “Well, I’M in Adult Three. YOU’D have to start in Adult One.” Such a sass – I love it!
2. My dad, now 65, still shovels the walkway from the back door all the way to my mom’s car, scrapes the ice and snow from her windows and turns the car on to heat it up for her. Who says chivalry is dead?
1. Mom and dad attended all my soccer games and out-of-state tournaments when I was growing up. We’re talking 13 years of soccer games. I didn’t realize what a commitment of support that was until it was all over. And even now, I occasionally play in a once-a-week, has-beens league for “old” people and they like to go to those pathetic games as well.


Kimberly November 28, 2007 at 2:53 pm

Oh thank god! 🙂 Many of my friends have extremely communicative parents, so I love to hear about others who had to fend so often for themselves!

(although now I wish I had kept those pamphlets – those pix would have made for amazing Nervous Breakdown fodder…)


aimeepalooza November 28, 2007 at 3:21 pm

1. My Mom walking into my first grade class and the entire class asking who’s Mom she was because everyone thought she was so beautiful. (She was a working Mom so she was dressed in heels, full hair and make up, everything.) Most Moms stayed at home and wore jeans, no makeup, and looked less sophisticated and glamorous.
2. I was three at the ocean and the tide came in and knocked me down and drug me out. I was stuck to the bottom on the sand and my Dad came and saved me.
3. Driving around in the summer with my Dad, in his corvette, top down, radio blasting, fast as Hell. And later, him teaching me how to drive a stick in that car…which he loved so much…I know each time I hit a wrong gear his heart broke but he never yelled at me.
4. My mom staying up all night to sew my Halloween costume when she hated sewing, worked full time and did all the cooking and cleaning.
5. My Mom still thinking she gave birth to the most beautiful, talented, and smartest children on the face of the planet and having no problem telling everyone who will listen about how wonderful and amazing we are.


aimeepalooza November 28, 2007 at 3:23 pm

Awww, that is so cute (the Tiger thing.) I don’t know your Dad but I like him just because of that.


aimeepalooza November 28, 2007 at 3:25 pm

My mom just told me it was a nasty dirty thing and to enjoy not having it while I didn’t. (I was concerned because I was a very late bloomer.) As for sex, over a boiling pot of spaghetti she told me to do it before marriage because it would hurt the first time and I didn’t want to be stuck with someone who sucked at it. I still didn’t know what it was really.


aimeepalooza November 28, 2007 at 3:29 pm

My Mom had some Southern Baptist hang ups from childhood…it was a huge deal she told me to have sex before marriage. She was being rebellious still against her own parents.


aimeepalooza November 28, 2007 at 3:30 pm

I want to do that when my kids are older. That’s really sweet.


Kimberly November 28, 2007 at 3:54 pm

See???? This is the kind of relationship I WANTED to have with my mother!!! You lucky thing! 🙂 (My mother was one of those women who missed womens’ lib in the ’60s – she had two ’50s and went straight to the ’70s)


robinslick November 28, 2007 at 4:08 pm

You know what really sucks? I thought about this on and off all day and can’t think of one good memory that involves both of my parents together that is fond let alone even remotely “normal”. Even the stuff I’m about to type ended up in a horrible argument or with one of us crying except for #1.

(1) My mom told me about sex at age 12 except her version of the birds and bees was “if you make sure you are on top, you will always have an orgasm.” Tell me that didn’t send me into therapy. Well, it didn’t, because back then they didn’t have therapy for 12 year olds, at least not in my parents’ world, but for about three years after our little talk I couldn’t look at my mother and father without wanting to vomit. However, it turns out my mom was right har har;

(2) Getting high with my father in our living room when I was sixteen with my friends while my mom was out shopping and hearing my Dad tell stories about how he slept with all these famous jazz singers (my dad was a jazz musician and if I could stand to even type his name, a lot of you would probably know him)…at the time my friends just thought I had the coolest family in the world, but that’s because they only saw the fun high dad who gave mnors wine, beer, and coke…they didn’t see the smacked up, drunk one who would throw me across a room if he thought I looked at him funny;

(3) Going shopping with my mom, the last time before she was diagnosed with a brain tumor…she acted so wacky I thought we were both stoned on pot (it was only me)…we bought ice cream cones and she drove one-handed eating ice cream with the other and we plowed into a parked car and she drove away without leaving a note with both of us laughing like crazed criminals…all fun and games until my father saw OUR car and I can just imagine the horrible reaction of the person whose car she hit without leaving a note or insurance information;

(4) My mother coming out of a twilight sleep she’d been in and out during her final days…sitting up…looking at me..and clearly saying to me five days after my 18th birthday: “See? I told you that you would grow up beautiful.” (My father used to say I looked like Ringo of the Beatles…can you imagine how that screwed with a young girl’s confidence?). Those were like the first and only words she spoke all summer. It was so weird and sad…all the years of my dad’s verbal abuse that she would try and undo with me behind his back, but in front of him, she was a fifties’ sitcom mom and Father Always Knew Best.

(5) My wedding, where my father got so drunk and high and wouldn’t leave our apartment afterwards when we were anxious to start our, um, honeymoon so my mother kept calling every five minutes to put him on the phone. At first it was hilarious and then I got so mad my husband and I locked ourselves in our new bedroom anyway, but I was too weirded out, so I walked back into the living room to see my Dad making out with my best friend.

Ah, memories.


robinslick November 28, 2007 at 4:09 pm

P.S. What I really also wanted to add, damn it, is that it’s so nice to finally meet Chuck after vying for the top spot at Publishers Marketplace with him week after week, though of course Susan has a lock on first place at PM so Chuck, I say we double team her and click on each other so that we at least have a fighting chance at #1. Ha!


Kimberly November 28, 2007 at 4:27 pm

Robin – I want to hug you. Right. Now.


lance_reynald November 28, 2007 at 5:01 pm

kimberly beat me to it…
but, I was bringing a hug by for you too Robin.



Carolyn_Burns_Bass November 28, 2007 at 6:09 pm

This is why you’re such a great mom, Robin. xoxo


ErikaRae November 28, 2007 at 6:41 pm

I was laughing until I kinda just realized…Oh my God. Wow. Group hug? Count me in.


ErikaRae November 28, 2007 at 6:50 pm

OMG – you can add me to that list. God, I hate that stuff. It’s like I take it personally.


ErikaRae November 28, 2007 at 6:56 pm

My one and only discussion with Mom of anything that came close to sex was the day she came in and sat next to me on my bed and said, “You may have been wondering what that little blue box is for on the back of my toilet.” Blushing painfully, I replied, “No, Mom. I’m good. They already told us all about it in school.”


Carolyn_Burns_Bass November 28, 2007 at 7:15 pm

Like Robin, I’ve been giving this a lot of thought all day. My parents split when I was seven and I have only a few fond memories of them together.

5. Five years old: Riding to the beach with the top down in our ’59 Caddy, the one with the jet-fire fins. It was white, with red leather interior and power windows. My mom sat in the front seat with a headscarf, while my dad drove with one hand on the wheel, singing Frank Sinatra songs.

4. Before the split-up: Taking a rare night out as a family at Me ‘n Ed’s pizza parlor in Santa Ana. My dad holding me up to the kitchen window so I can watch the dough spinners making our pizza.

3. Fast forward fifteen years: Sailing to Catalina on my dad’s 30-foot sailboat and sleeping on the deck under the stars after a night of partying at the Isthmus. He raced his boat in the local regattas and if there was a speck on the horizon, he was racing it. He turned into Captain Ahab when he was sailing, but was fun and frolicsome once we reached port.

2. My mother taking me shopping to buy an outfit to wear to Disneyland’s Grad-Nite. Disneyland required “coordinated pantsuits” or “dressy dresses” for the girls and those were my beach-chick days when I wore nothing but sundresses or Levi 501s. Money was tight and I was astounded that my mother spent $28 on my blazer and pants.

1. My fondest memory of my mother is sitting at the antique piano that my stepfather lovingly restored, singing pop standards to rival Streisand. I am not exaggerating. My mother could’ve been a pop diva if she’d had an ounce of confidence. Alas, the voice skipped a generation. My daughter has perfect pitch (but doesn’t want to be a singer!).


Ric Marion November 28, 2007 at 8:03 pm

5. Dad watching his three sons practice handstands in the front yard. “I can do that.” Except when he did, huge amounts of change fell from his pockets and we forgot all about how cool Dad was and scrambled for the money with Mom in hysterics.

4. Going Up North to my Uncle’s unfinished cabin, and late at night, Dad going with me into the woods with a shovel and flashlight. (Hey, guys, I was maybe 5)

3. Dad adamantly refusing to go on the Maid of the Mist at Niagra Falls – it wasn’t the boat, it was the trolley thingy that you rode down the cliff.

4. Mom and Dad’s second courtship. Started when I was twelve and went full bore until I left for college. They would go out dancing every Saturday night, dinner and drinks and more dancing. They were both forty and I have a little brother 13 years younger than me just to show how much fun they had.

5. Dad and Mom sitting on lawn chairs, under the tree in the front yard, just gazing out at the neighbor’s farm. They were so happy. They hauled those lawn chairs all over the country and whenever they would stop the motorhome for the night, the chairs would come out and they would sit gazing at whatever was there. It was all they needed – something I’m still striving for.


SusanHenderson November 28, 2007 at 8:17 pm

I love that story of the pocket change!


SusanHenderson November 28, 2007 at 8:19 pm

There’s something that just gets to me about holding kids up to look through windows. It’s like an automatic weepy Kodak moment button for me.


SusanHenderson November 28, 2007 at 8:22 pm

See, this is why I love you, Robin. Because everything about you is rich and heartbreaking and funny and vivid all at once. You can’t even tell these tragic stories without being funny. xo


SusanHenderson November 28, 2007 at 8:24 pm
SusanHenderson November 28, 2007 at 8:28 pm

These are great.


SusanHenderson November 28, 2007 at 8:30 pm

I taught my kids how to start the car so now they heat it up for me and feel cool all at once.


SusanHenderson November 28, 2007 at 8:32 pm

I like that skipping school story. And I’m glad to know you and Terry are making up for the lack of memories here. Your kids would have a hard time narrowing the list down to five.


SusanHenderson November 28, 2007 at 8:33 pm

Okay, #3 and #4 absolutely melt me.


SusanHenderson November 28, 2007 at 8:35 pm

This is why some people have to develop great skills for finding their own family members, and I’m happy to be a part of it. xo


SusanHenderson November 28, 2007 at 8:36 pm

I win! Because I hate ranch dressing, and I will even die if I eat it.


SusanHenderson November 28, 2007 at 8:38 pm

I hadn’t even made that connection between you and Chuck, even though I knew about your radio background. Okay, now, tiger, I’m really glad you two know of each other. Great list.


SusanHenderson November 28, 2007 at 8:39 pm

I love the scarecrow story, ha!


chuckles November 28, 2007 at 8:51 pm

My parents are fascinating, difficult, loving, crazy people. Their marriage ended when I was in college – or, it was over before it began but they only separated when I was in college. However, during those 18 or so years during which they endured each other’s presence, they made their home a warm and supportive place for my sister and me, even when we made it so difficult for them that I hardly think we deserved it. I can’t identify a “top five” of my fondest memories of them but here’s a selection of five that belong in the pantheon:

(age 16?) When, despite parental dissuasion, I tried to ride my bike from Studio City to Santa Monica Beach and back. I made it to the beach but then in Brentwood my knee gave out. I called my dad for help and he came immediately to pick me up, never once reminding me (even non-verbally) that he’d told me so.

(age 8?) When, after they’d scolded me, I ran away from home. I left in the late afternoon with an ill-tempered note on my pillow, and by the dark of night I was perhaps four or five miles away, because I was a fast and motivated walker. But as the evening cool chilled me I realized I had nowhere to sleep and begged a liquor store clerk to call my folks to have them get me. A police car was there fast to retrieve me and there were two more at home waiting for me. Mom and dad were both in tears and promised earnestly to respect me more – a promise they’ve kept right up till now.

(age 6) When, in Oxford with the family on my dad’s sabbaticals, he’d break from his researches once a week to have a “daniel and daddy day” in the old Oxon pubs, making up bad jokes and drinking (beer for him, soft cider for me). We fed pigeons and he’d let me ride on his shoulders.

(age 21) When, as a senior in college on the wrong side of the continent, I was starring in the biggest and best play I’d ever done. On the evening of opening night my mom walked into my kitchen, having coordinated her trip to Philly from LA with my housemates so she could see me sing my swan song.

(ageless) When, during my whole childhood, family dinners on Friday nights began with a beautiful Sabbath service. Mom lit candles; dad blessed me and my sister with unintelligibilities whispered into the tops of our heads; we all sang the prayer over the wine and bread, and some perspective was gained on a week’s worth of tension and misunderstandings. Saturday nights we had a beautiful end-of-sabbath ceremony with fragrant spices and a braided three-wick candle extinguished into a dish of wine, and then, in the dark, we sang more songs. Truly uplifting, and something I hope I have the discipline to make available to my own son.

Damn, that felt good. Thanks for giving me this opportunity to account for life’s better side!


chuckles November 29, 2007 at 1:07 am

your list goes from 5 to 3 to 5 – nothing is “big no 1” and nothing is “dead last.” What a great way to organize things that defy organization!


lance_reynald November 29, 2007 at 2:07 am

and you…
no closer family than the wondertwin.



rachel November 29, 2007 at 4:01 am

1. dragging my mattress outside on a midsummer’s night and sleeping in my yard with Dad under silver aspens.
2. I tried to think of a number two, but really, i love almost every minute i spend with my dad; dinner, a movie, a car ride, a phone call, anything. We’ve had fights, but he always makes me feel loved and valued and perfect and beautiful (he even said once that i was his favourite child). He will always be a big part of my life.

My mom is rather distant. she is more religious than my dad, but with less faith. We have great disussions about literature and movies, but I suspect she saves all her agression for our trivial disagreements. I won’t have many fond memories with her until she can stomach my company.


robinslick November 29, 2007 at 10:21 am

Ooh, I like hugs. Ha ha – thank you. But yeah, it’s true, as traumatic as my childhood was, I still would not trade it for anything because I remember specifically saying to myself as early as age 8…when I grow up I will never do this to my child..I will always respect my children and not make them my indentured servants nor do anything to insult or demean them…and no matter what they choose to do in life, even if god forbid it’s sports or politics (ha), I will be 100% supportive.

And Susan, I thought I was given the gift of an edit button but if I have one, it’s hiding. I had wrong ages and dates in my post, not that it matters to anyone but me. I was married at age 18 while my mom was still alive so that my husband (who was my childhood sweetheart and yeah, yeah, we’re still together much to the shock of just about everyone) and I could be appointed legal guardians of my then 10 year old brother and use her Social Security check to help pay his bills and subsequent college tuition 8 years later; she died five days before my 19th birthday.

Anyway, I applied all of my parenting skills at age 18 to my brother, who graduated college with honors and is now a wealthy executive living in Connecticut and the love of my life along with his beautiful wife and two gorgeous sons, one of whom at age 9 is already a talented guitarist. You had to see me going to PTA meetings for a 5th grader when I was 19 years old…


Gail Siegel November 29, 2007 at 12:33 pm

I’ve been fascinated by everyone’s responses, but I can’t think of 5 discrete fond memories. My childhood was quite lovely and sheltered; I spent a good chunk of it in the magical north woods of wisconsin. And my parents are wonderful people. My father is a magnificent story-teller and the world’s best joke-teller. But outside of him reading to poetry to us (“Custer the Dragon”?) at this moment I can’t conjure up a single memory that isn’t somehow fraught. Arguments, my mother angry or martyred, children punching each other in the background. Dogs escaping, bike accidents, etc.

On the other hand, we all — my folks and my 3 sibs — had a nice time over Thanksgiving weekend. But that’s just barely a memory.


Gail Siegel November 29, 2007 at 12:34 pm

You are a wonder.


Chuck November 29, 2007 at 9:13 pm

I often click Susan’s site several times just to keep her numero uno. At least then I feel like I had something to do with it.
Robin, you just have way too interesting a life!


Chuck November 29, 2007 at 10:36 pm

I want to thank everyone for the wonderful thread. This is quite a rec room you have and I will visit often. My dad would have been 94 years old today. I have a 98 year-old father-in-law who is still toughing it out.

One of dad’s best friends was Browns, Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Willis. He was my godfather. And Susan wonders why I am a Browns fan. Uncle Bill just passed away on Monday. He also had his number retired at The Ohio State University this year. There is a blog on the topic here:

It is my pro site on an Akron based news portal. I hope you can check it out if you have a minute.

Thanks again, Susan and everyone for making me feel welcome. Your stories are just more fuel for the soul of the writer, that disorder we all share.



Shelley November 30, 2007 at 1:23 am

Hug from me, too, Robin and everyone.


Heather_Fowler November 30, 2007 at 8:16 am

Robin–wow. You are amazing. I love all that wit and strength rolled into one. Warmest, H


Heather_Fowler November 30, 2007 at 8:32 am

Since my parents split when I was a young child and I remember them mostly apart, or if not, no longer having that loving feeling… *grins* I will instead post the five memories of my folk (s is sometimes silent) that occured separately.

1. When my mother took me to ballet lessons and recitals each weekend on Saturdays and then on Sundays she and me and my brother would go to a church held in a school auditorium. I loved those weekends, and I also loved going to the old folks homes for our recitals all dressed up in little tutus and sparkle, coke-bottle glasses strapped onto my head with a thin black athletic strap (as if I was to do something vigorous). The old ladies loved me and this was my favorite part, chatting with the ladies who invariably had butterscotch candies or some delicious sweets they wanted to share. My mother said I just wanted to sit and talk to them for hours. It did not hurt that, for as long as I did ballet (12, maybe 14 recitals of lessons)–there was only one picture of me actually doing what the other little girls were doing. For the rest, I was doing my own thing, or behind, or staring hard at the girl next to me thinking: What are we supposed to be doing right now? Oh, yeah, plie. Oops, now life the arms. Ooops, now turn and follow… Etc. The church was tied into this since I loved to count the hats of the people in front of me and sit close to my mom when she wasn’t stressed out and my brother wasn’t allowed to speak.

2. I must have been about 9, maybe 10–though that summer was full of oddness I won’t go into, I have a very fond memory of taking horse-back riding lessons in Washington state from a woman named Callie. She was a hippy type in a woodsy home and taught dressage–fancy English riding. I took lots of lessons and then, at the summer’s end, did a little show where I trotted, posted, cantered (or maybe that was the horse and I just sat dippily on top) to Whitney Houston’s then famous “How Will I Know?” I loved having the riding boots and helmet and doing something so chichi, even then. It made me feel glamorous.

3. This is just a being and doing thing–but when I was very small I developed a habit of putting my finger in whatever birthday cake I had and licking the frosting off. I thought I was tricky, I guess–but my mother has pictures of me doing this for several years in a row–and I guess it’s just a fond memory that I could be allowed to do something so heinous as pollute the cake for others, continuously, since my mother knew this was my favorite part of my birthday.

I think three is good for now. I’m sure there are more, but I’m drawing a blank. Oddly, I’m thinking of the day my brother took my umpteenth hamster, a white one with a big tumor on his side, and placed it outside under the pingpong table, beating the pavement with his palms and shouting, “Be free little hampster! Be free.” All this happening before I knew it–as the two cats, licking their chops from either side of the yard, watched the progress of the little shivering thing, just waiting for it to enter the grass. I could have killed him. My brother, that is. Cats will be cats.

Love to all,


Heather_Fowler November 30, 2007 at 8:36 am

P.S. The connection to the church and ballet was the old people. I loved old people. Still do. I’ll sit me a spell in their parlors any old day. Even Nona noticed this. You like to write edgy stories, but you like to write stories about old people, too. Yes, Nona. Something in their long, winding histories makes a listener out of me, every time.


Betsy November 30, 2007 at 8:50 am

Oh man, I don’t know where to start. I’m sorry I’m so late to this. In random order:
1. My mom asking me if I was always going to be a character in everything I wrote. “If you keep giving me material,” I said, to which she cracked up.
2. Shopping with my mom was always fun, and very often we’d get the giggles about one thing or another, and when my mom got the giggles really bad, she had to try hard not to pee her pants. Which made us giggle even more.
3. Traveling with my mom – because she was an opera singer, we went to a number of exotic/exciting locations around the world begining when I was in elementary school, and although she was often busy with rehearsal, we always managed to take in a lot of culture.
4. Summers with my dad. My dad has a wonderful, dry sense of humor. Actually, hanging out with him now, even though he has Parkinson’s, is still fun – we play games with the family – dictionary, liebrary – and laugh a lot.
5. My dad telling me he was proud of me when my first book came out. It was a very weepy moment for both of us. My parents are long divorced and my mom died before she got to see any of these wonderful developments in my life, so it was very bittersweet.


Heather_Fowler November 30, 2007 at 9:40 am

Chuck, you are wonderful!


Heather_Fowler November 30, 2007 at 9:56 am

And PPS–my father bought me those lessons on horseback. This is his connection. I loved when he watched me at that recital and was proud. I also, related to my father, loved the moment I showed him the sonograph of my first child-to-be, Lexie. This was monumental since I realized that I didn’t want old wounds to enter into the newest generation I was about to birth into this strange world–and I buried the ax, deeply, in the ground, when I invvited him back into my life in that way. (Isn’t it amazing how there are so many details in each person’s memory that to tell the memory would take forever and all the interconnectedness of the response to the prompt can be so internalized, we need to tell others, later, what the connection to one thing or another was? Thanks, Susan, for LitPark. This is the one place I talk the truth behind the fiction or obsessions. It’s almost, not quite but almost, making me want to take a memoir spin with prose. Then again, though,
I’ll just do that here and let the rest of the art keep its covering layer. Still, we walk together down memory lane (s)–I am loving this with you and your wild coterie of writer friends. xo, H


Heather_Fowler December 3, 2007 at 3:31 pm

I want to get in that Caddy with your five year old self and my five year old self! Can we have big lollipops like from a fair? I want to hear your dad sing Sinatra! Ooh, can I have your memory of that? Just borrow it? Wouldn’t it be great if we could take the best, most vibrant things and put them on little mp3 or video players to share with others? Populate the heads of others with happy recollections should they be needed or desired? I think so.

Warmest, xoxo,


SusanHenderson December 12, 2007 at 10:11 am

I love your mom.


SusanHenderson December 12, 2007 at 10:12 am

That story about the hamster better appear in your novel.


SusanHenderson December 12, 2007 at 10:14 am

Thanks so much for being here, Chuck. And P.S. It’s an evil trick to get a Steelers fan all sniffly and sentimental about the Browns.


SusanHenderson December 12, 2007 at 10:18 am

I love that, though. That you’ll have these lovely family moments with punching and dogs escaping in the background.


SusanHenderson December 12, 2007 at 10:20 am

How lucky for you to have that kind of relationship with your dad. What an interesting comment: more religious but with less faith. That’s worthy of a whole book.


SusanHenderson December 12, 2007 at 10:22 am

Oh, I love the story about little 6-year-old you and Dad hanging out at the pub.


SusanHenderson December 12, 2007 at 10:24 am

Took the words out of my mouth.


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