"And now, here is the host of Jeopardy!" announced Johnny Gilbert as Alex Trebek strode into the studio. Crisp as a new dollar bill in his navy suit and periwinkle tie, greeted his TV audience and the contestants of our favorite TV game show: Elaine, a New York librarian, Larry, a tax attorney from Minneapolis, and the returning four-day champ, Sylvia, a journalist turned stay-at-home mom from Phoenix. My heroine.
The big blue board splashed its categories across the studio as my husband, Chris, and I settled in for the duration. Battling to ring in and answer first, the contestants whizzed through The Salem Witch Trials, Songs' Later Verses, Impressions, Women's Native Lands, The Environment, and You Know What They Say, displaying enough esoteric knowledge to sink the Bismarck.
Juggling questions like a Barnum and Bailey circus act, Sylvia, Elaine and Larry zipped through inquiries like "Al Gore was one of the speakers at the 1992 U.N. Earth Summit held in this South American city" ("What is Rio de Janeiro?") and "Of 9, 13, 20 or 100, the age of Betty Parris, one of the first people to make an accusation in the Salem Witch Trials?" Tossing her russet mane, Elaine picked up another $900 as she correctly answered, "What is nine?"
Blond and petite, Sylvia hit it big with the Daily Double in Songs' Later Verses: "I don't want clever conversation, I don't want to work that hard" is heard in what pop hit?" What is, "Just the Way You Are?"
I couldn't decide if Larry reminded me of Winston Churchill or a hedgehog. Bespectacled, fuzzy, and articulate, Larry's correct answer of "What is discretion?" to "For centuries fraidy cats have insisted this is the better part of valor" earned the lawyer another $1,000.
Elaine the Arcane dropped the $800 question in Impressions: "Many impressions of this actress include her line from `Stage Door': `The calla lilies are in bloom.'" Elaine said Joan Crawford. I thought Bette Davis. We were both wrong. (It's Katherine Hepburn.)
"You know who does well on this show?" Chris asked during a commercial break. I was sure my Resident Encyclopedia would enlighten me.
"Candidates for canonization?" I cracked, still stumped over who said, "Let's run and we'll have some fun before we melt away?" in Songs' Later Verses.
"Teachers, attorneys, and librarians" Chris opined. Whew. I'd been edged out by a whisker. Until he amended his observation. "But Sylvia's pretty impressive. Writers and moms can clean house, too."
"Thanks" I said. I was glad we straightened that out.
Sylvia WAS impressive. Larry led Elaine by $2,000 after the Double Jeopardy round. But neither the Juris Doctor nor the "librarian with two master's degrees" could stop Sylvia the Steam Roller. The stay-at-home mom was wiping up the floor, outdistancing her nearest competitor by $3,600 going into Final Jeopardy. Ah, sweet vindication!
The match wasn't a runaway, however, as the steam roller's score wasn't quite double her nearest competitor's. It would come down to careful wagering in the Final Jeopardycategory of "Popular Fiction." I had confidence in Sylvia. We were soul mates.
"Pop fiction!" Chris groaned. "What kind of category is that?"
"A candidate for canonization?"
Chris expected something he could answer like, "If Jesse's half-brother's third cousin twice removed is aunt to her younger sister whose great niece came over from Russia in 1918, then what does Uncle Albert eat for breakfast?" Or maybe the chemical composition of the second star to the right. Or the square root of an isoceles triangle.
I whooped as the blue box binged and Alex read the Final Jeopardy question: "This series of over 200 books began with `Kristy's Great Idea.'"
"I know this! I know this!" I hooted.
"Wrongamundo!" I crowed as the hedgehog answered "What is Nancy Drew?" Larry bet the farm. He grimaced as his score laid a goose egg. "Wrong!" I shouted as Elaine's answer of "What are `The Boxcar Children'?" flashed on the blue screen. Elaine the Arcane didn't bet the farm, but she'd sold the house and the barn. Her score dropped to $100.
"You da Wo-man!" I cheered Sylvia. She was going out with a bang as an undefeated 5- day champion. A journalist turned stay-at-home mom like me, Sylvia had the correct answer. I was sure of it.
"I'm sorry, that's incorrect" Alex smiled, shaking his hoary head.
"No way!" I spouted. Alex the Omniscient was mistaken. There was no way Sylvia could be wrong. After all, her answer was my answer. She HAD to be right.
"Did she risk more than $3,000?" Alex asked. Like any self-respecting writer turned stay- at-home mom, Sylvia wagered her entire wad. She lost it all. I pouted as Elaine was crowned "the new Jeopardy champion."
Jeopardy! was over and I snuggled under a quilt with my four-year old son as we read "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street." Thick with sleep, his little voice announced, "Mommy, this is just like Heaven."
Dr. Seuss is good, but not THAT good. "What do you mean?" I asked, "What is heaven like?"
"It's like this" Josiah replied from his burrow of blankets, "All warm and fuzzy and nice and love-y." I nodded.
"Except there's one bad thing about heaven" Josiah the Theologian frowned.
I had to bite. "Who are they?"
Josiah looked up at me, rolling his droopy eyes. Final Jeopardy aside, my preschooler obviously felt he was explaining Trigonometry to Mino the Slave. "You know, those bad soldiers who put Jesus on the cross, where He died for our sins. They were bad soldiers. But God loves even bad soldiers. Because God so loved the world that He gave His only forgotten (sic) Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
We returned Marco to Mulberry Street with his "plain horse and wagon" and it was time for tucking in, kisses, and bed time prayers. In an encore of his best Sunday school manners, Josiah bowed his head, folded his hands and addressed the Almighty: "Dear God" he boomed in a voice that could give Pavarotti a run for his money, "Thank You for this day..."
Josiah prayed for Mommy and Daddy, asked God to bless his brothers, stuffed animals, intrepid Sunday school teacher, U.S. troops in Iraq, and Eve, our yellow Labrador Retriever. Josiah wrapped up his prayer with, "God, are You listening? Can You call me? When You want me, I'm right here. My phone number is..." I thought he was going to give God our zip code.
Well. The correct answer to the Final Jeopardy question? "What is ‘The Babysitter's Club'?" I knew that. In fact, I can usually answer most Jeopardy! questions without too much brain strain. But if you want answers to Real questions, don't look at me. Ask my preschooler. He knows: "God, are You listening? Can You call me? When You want me, I'm right here."
I'm still trying to figure out the square root of an isosceles triangle. My four year-old, on the other hand, not only has the right Answer, but the right Question, too.