Changing Plans, Trivial Pursuits And The Color Yellow

Published in The Ferndale Record, October 24, 2012

Sometimes, even when things don’t turn out like you want, they still turn out pretty good. Sometimes, the outcome is simply excellent.

When my children were little I was like a lot of other parents and had ideas about how it should go. I would rock and sing them to sleep at night. We would read books together early and often, graduating to advanced literature along the way. We would listen to classical and sacred music. We would go build homes for the poor in a third world country, and my children would shun pedestrian forms of entertainment in favor of more poignant, meaningful fare. OK, there’s some hyperbole in there, but you get the point.

Fast forward a few years up to last week. I sat in Buckley’s in Belltown on 2nd Avenue in Seattle with two of my children, a niece, a nephew and a close family friend where we participated in a Simpson’s trivia contest. We blew away the competition and went home with a cash prize.

How did our family evolve from that idyllic scenario I dreamed about to well-seasoned, lowbrow comedy wizards? It was a surprisingly short trip.

To be fair, we are contributing members of society. Some of us attend the symphony, we’ve all read books that don’t even mention The Simpsons, others graduated from prestigious institutions of higher learning, one is a classically trained pianist, some are athletes, we are gainfully employed, and bathe regularly.

Although we’re also a diverse group, one of our common denominators has been an ironic sense of humor, and recognizing clever when we hear it. Our attraction to the longest-running, animated prime-time series in the history of American television happened quickly in the early seasons of the show. For most Simpsons aficionados, the show jumped the proverbial shark somewhere between seasons five and eight.

A few questions at the contest, most having to do with those later seasons, stumped us. But we came away victorious in our general knowledge of nothing important to mankind, and were paid for our efforts.

For my two sons, it was also a moral victory because they won the competition last time, and were looking to retain the crown. These boys are ringers. They know The Simpsons well, obscure details and all. And while the rest of us contributed minimally, they delivered the goods.

Why does any of this matter? I’ll tell you. If it’s not a sick, twisted secret or behavior that unites a family, it can be a good thing. And on a Wednesday night in October, when each of us could have been engaged in any number of other meaningful, important activities, we were bound together by something trivial. Other family members in far away places posted good luck wishes on Facebook and anxiously waited to hear results. We were all on board.

When I held tiny babies and mused about lovely things, The Simpsons weren’t on my radar. But that’s where the whole flexibility thing comes in, I guess. Quoting choice lines from the show at just the right moment has become a badge of honor for us. It’s something we do well together, no matter how different we are in other ways.

For me, the switch from what I thought would be, to what is, is even sweeter. I got another childhood all over again, only this time with people who included me when they didn’t really have to. I’m lucky that way.

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