Our Evenings with Alex Trebek

Our Evenings with Alex Trebek

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom

Our Evenings with Alex Trebek

What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child.
~George Bernard Shaw

It’s been a very long day. But it’s evening now and for the next thirty minutes, I can put today behind me and enjoy myself with a special hobby. When I enter our family room, the sound that I’ve heard so many times before blares out from the television. “This is Jeopardy!”

That’s right—I love watching and playing the popular game show. I wouldn’t miss a single episode. I can’t wait to see what new suit the always-debonair host Alex Trebek will wear each night and who the contestants are.

I always root for the contestants who are from my home state of Massachusetts. And of course, I gloat when I get an answer right and the contestants do not. There’s a sense of superiority when I answer a question correctly. For just that moment, you’re the smartest kid in the class and you know it. Oooh, that feels good. What a rush!

I have a partner in crime with this obsession. My mother is also a big fan of the show. We spend the thirty minutes of the show in a friendly competition, shouting out the answers as quickly as possible.

Mom and I are evenly matched competitors. Our brains are full of useless bits of trivia that are necessary to excel at Jeopardy! Anything involving history or geography she aces—while my knowledge of trivia relating to politics and pop culture is solid. When it comes to a category involving television or movies, it’s a draw to see which of us can shout out the answer first.

There are some good categories in tonight’s show. “Good” meaning categories where we have a strong chance of knowing the answers. And the game begins.

“Advertising Slogans for $200,” says a contestant.

“This product gets the red out,” says Alex.

“What is Visine?” the two of us shout out simultaneously. This is going to be so easy.

“Name that Comedian for $400,” says a contestant.

“This is Al Sleet, your hippie dippie weatherman,” says Alex.

“Who is George Carlin?” I say.

“Origin of the Specious for $400,” says a contestant.

“Altar-bound Jennifer Wilbanks’s 2005 kidnapping proved to be less than true, so she was given this two-word nickname,” says Alex.

“Who is the Runaway Bride?” says Mom.

“Origin of the Specious for $600,” says a contestant.

“This Caribbean leader’s reported baseball tryouts for the major leagues in the ’40s never happened,” says Alex.

“Who is Fidel Castro?” Mom says.

Mom was always a smart lady. She easily could have enrolled in college, but few women of that generation had that option. She married and had five children. There were more options for me so I went to college and pursued a career.

Despite our different paths, five nights a week, we have something in common. When we watch the show, we don’t keep score. That’s not the point. We simply enjoy spending some time together having fun playing Jeopardy!

“Swimmers for $800,” says a contestant.

“Qualified Navy submariners wear these creatures on their uniforms; sonar operators sometimes hear them in the deep,” says Alex.

“What are dolphins?” I say.

“Mamma Mea for $800,” says a contestant.

“An early sign of this one-word disease is Koplik’s Disease, which can be seen on the insides of the cheeks,” says Alex.

“What are measles?” I say.

The minutes fly by and before we know it, Alex announces that it’s time for final jeopardy. The category is Famous Names.

“The Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium at Arizona State University was the last major public building that he designed,” says Alex.

The familiar Jeopardy! theme song begins to play as the contestants try to remember the answer. Architecture is not my strong suit. Alex Trebek has stumped me. The seconds tick away and I haven’t a clue as to what the correct response is.

My mother says, “Frank Lloyd Wright.”

I smile at her. She didn’t phrase it in the form of a question, but her response is right. I guess Mom can still teach me a thing or two.

My mother passed away in 2008. I still watch Jeopardy! although it isn’t the same without my maternal competitor. But I feel close to her when I watch. Watching the show reminds me that the greatest gift Mom gave me was a passion for learning and to always have fun. These attributes help me in my travels through life every single day.

~Maryanne Curran

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