Virtue & Mischief: James Coco or Homer Simpson?


I am a cautious and conservative person by nature.

This trait manifests itself in a variety of ways: I don’t wear colorful or flashy clothes; I prefer that changes—whatever they may be—arrive gradually and with a little warning; I celebrate what many consider to be “old fashioned” virtues, virtues like humility, gratitude, respect for one’s elders, and so forth; I rarely (I almost wrote “never”) use the extreme and categorical adverbs “never” or “always.

Still, I confess there are a few things I thought I’d never see. Let me illustrate with a few examples: I never thought I’d see the Chicago Cubs or the Kansas City Royals win the World Series. I never thought I’d fall in love with a cat (ours—Graystripe—won me over). I never thought the Dow would hit 20,000, or that Donald Trump would become President, or that I’d become addicted to coffee, or that I could read newspapers from all over the world (every day) from a screen on a desk in my home. I never thought I’d return to Greenville, Ohio, after departing in 1994. I never thought my childhood friends would achieve so much.

To this pantheon of “I never thought” items, I must now add the following: “I never thought I’d see the day when my family would get sick of eating pizza.” Alas, that day has arrived. More on that in a moment.

There is an old “Simpsons” episode in which Homer sells his soul to the devil in return for a donut. Once he consumes the sugary treat, Homer descends to the fiery netherworld and is sent immediately to the Hell Labs Ironic Punishment Division. His torturer utilizes a machine that shoves donuts, several at a time, into Homer’s maw over and over and over and over again. Homer’s belly expands as hundreds of donuts are deposited, assembly-line style, into his mouth. His persecutor is dumbfounded by Homer’s inexplicable, continued enthusiasm for the donuts. “I don’t understand it,” he laments. “James Coco went mad in 15 minutes!”

Back to my pizza-related epiphany. Every Wednesday Krista works outside the home as an optometrist at a local practice. She and I arrive to the house after work at about the same time and, because we have a regular, weekly church commitment on Wednesday evenings, there is little or no time to prepare dinner. This is especially true because Luke also has basketball practice each Wednesday night.

The upshot is that we must semi-frantically scurry around on these evenings to accomplish all the tasks on our plate—feeding the children and ourselves, cleaning up the dinner table and the kitchen, assessing the homework situation for the amigos and reminding them to do their assignments in our absence, carting Luke to his practice, picking up a friend who lives a few miles outside of Coletown so that he can participate in the church meeting with us, and—finally—speeding to the house where our weekly meetings convene. All of this must occur between 5:30 and 6:45 p.m. or so. Hence, Wednesday’s have become “pizza night” in the Swensen household.

So far, so good. One night a week was something we all could handle reasonably well. Paper plates and an extra large pie on those frenetic Wednesday nights was an acceptable solution to a thorny, time-crunchy situation. It provided us just enough time to eat, to help the kids start their homework, to deliver Luke on time to his practice, and to arrive at our meeting (almost) on time.

But a few days ago our pizza-eating epidemic spread. I forget all the details. On a recent Saturday night Luke and I stopped in a pizza joint out of town after one of his basketball games. The food was terrific and we had a nice time chowing down, chatting together, and watching sports on a big screen TV. At work the following week I was responsible for hosting a couple of programs for the law students over the lunch hour. We served food in order to entice more students to attend and the fare on both occasions was—you guessed it—pizza. Midweek we did our usual extra large, extra cheese, Wednesday night “scramble.” Then, this past Saturday evening, we had dinner and game night at Grandma’s house with Uncle Rob and Aunt Lisa. Wonderful! Laughter and stories and food galore. The main course? Yep. The “P” word.

Each amigo separately uttered the sentence I never thought here, expressing a sentiment I never thought I’d witness: “Dad? I am sooooo sick of pizza!”

It turns out the amigos are more James Coco than Homer Simpson! Now for the next step. How do we get them to eat more vegetables?!?

By Tim Swensen

Virtue & Mischief

Timothy Swensen is the author of the weekly column series Virtue and Mischief that is published every Tuesday in The Daily Advocate. He can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

No posts to display