By Nathan Hoobler
When I was eight years old, I listened to Adventures in Odyssey all the time. I loved hearing Imagination Station journeys back to Bible times, listening to “slice of life” stories with the everyday kids in Odyssey, and coming along for exciting tales from history. But my favorite episodes were always the ones featuring Connie Kendall and Eugene Meltsner. Connie was an outspoken, feisty high school student who worked behind the counter at Whit’s End, a local soda shop. Eugene was a brainy college student who seemed to know everything about every subject…or at least he thought he did. Though the two of them were good friends, they spent most of their time together as perfect foils – arguing about everything from fashion to faith.
Nearly thirty years later, I have the pleasure to work behind the scenes on Adventures in Odyssey. Eugene and Connie are still on the show, but some things have changed. Both of them are at very different places in life than they were when I was a kid. Eugene is married to Katrina (his intellectual equal in every way) and Connie is now in college herself. (If the ages don’t seem to add up, don’t worry. Connie remained a teenager for many, many years because time in Odyssey works a little bit differently!) Perhaps most importantly, however, Eugene and Connie have both become parents on the show. Eugene and his wife Katrina are foster parents for a former juvenile delinquent named Buck Oliver. And Connie has become the main parental influence in the life of her half-sister Jules.
And my life has changed, too. I’m now a dad to an eight-year-old who also loves listening to Adventures in Odyssey. He’s barely buckled in his seat in the car before he asks to pick up the last episode where we left off. Looking back to the time before I was a dad, I didn’t realize how much parenting would change me as a person. Parenting quickly pointed out my own ingrained selfishness, particularly with how I used my time and attentions. It’s hard to try to be a good dad and be selfish with your time. Kids don’t realize it, but they effect a lot of change in their parents!
Now, Eugene and Connie are going through the same process of change. They are both still very much themselves, but they are also becoming something new. Connie can’t be the same outspoken flighty girl and be a good motherly influence for Jules. Eugene can’t be the same egomaniac and be a good father figure to Buck. Both of the characters have had to change to become parents and they’re continuing to change. It hasn’t been easy – and sometimes seeing them struggle has hit a little too close to home – but it’s been healthy for them. It’s been full of learning moments for our young fans and even for us on the Odyssey team behind the scenes. Sometimes the show teaches us more than it teaches our listeners!
What do Eugene and Connie (and I!) have to learn about parenting the days ahead? Like life, Adventures in Odyssey isn’t planned out many years in advance. But I’m confident in what our main character John Avery Whittaker might say, “The best is yet to come!”