Do you have one of those families whose Saturday morning kitchen comes alive every week with pancakes and the radio? Someone yells through the house, “Odyssey’s on!” and family members start to yawn their way to the kitchen. Your mother lays down four yellow plates and flops the pancakes down.
I grew up in one of those families, and so did most of my friends. I have a friend who, when someone once asked her address, gave the address repeated at the end of each Adventures in Odyssey episode. Who can erase Chris’ pert voice echoing through the memory: “Write to us at Adventures in Odyssey, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80995. Or in Canada write to Box 9800 Vancouver, B.C. B6B4G3.” To my brain, it’s a permanent line of music.
I sat one night as a little girl in the backseat of the car trying to scratch out a letter to Chris to tell her how much I loved Odyssey. I gave up. I knew the address, but Odyssey was too hard to spell.
Eugene Meltsner was my childhood hero. We even had the plastic action figure of Eugene, Odyssey’s local genius, complete with shaggy brown-orange bangs and clunky glasses. It took years for me to admit my secret hope of emulating his vocabulary: “When I grow up, I want to be able to talk like Eugene.”
I had a precocious vocabulary. I remember my best friend looking at me and rolling her eyes. She said, “Mission accomplished.”
I still remember one fateful night when the brown tape inside the white casing of my favorite episode snapped in half. I fell asleep every night and woke up every morning with an Odyssey tape playing. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world because I had a tape player that flipped tapes automatically.
Odyssey unfolded worlds for us as children: the worlds of the American slave, the prophet Elijah, Paul Revere, Abraham Lincoln, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, Lazarus, and hundreds more I can’t call to memory. It brought us into a little town of stories and people we grew to love. Connie behind the soda counter, perpetually in high school. Whit making inventions and giving sage advice. Rodney Rathbone with the screechy voice, tearing up the neighborhood.
Even at college most everyone knew Connie, Whit, and Rodney. The whole Odyssey crew was like our common extended family. And the abundant episodes left our minds rich with lessons on mercy, thankfulness, the Bible, and how people work.
Sometimes, as I grow older, I diminish the importance of putting wholesome things into my mind. At times for the cause of cultural exposure to “things I’m old enough to watch,” I neglect the cultivation of a healthy heart. At the age of 22I still love Odyssey. In fact, at touching moments it makes me cry—I think because I have lived longer, seen and suffered more, and have more empathy. Perhaps it is time I raced to the radio again.